Radishes ripe for the picking in Monkton made their way into a bin that would soon be delivered to Wake Robin’s kitchen in Shelburne.
The Wake Robin retirement community houses about 360 residents. Director of Dining Services, Kathy King, uses almost 40 percent of her budget to purchase local and sustainable products. She buys from ten local farms, but has the strongest partnership with Monkton’s Bella Farm.
“That’s huge especially when the state’s goal for institutions is to buy 20 percent local by 2020,” King said.
Bella Farm owner Rachel Schattman weeded between rows before plunging her fingers into the soil to harvest a red, root vegetable big enough to sell. She dug up a heart-shaped radish. “We love Wake Robin so much our radishes sometimes grow in the shape of hearts,” she said with a big smile.
King and her staff get inspired by using her fresh local produce in all shapes and sizes. “We will get anywhere from five to 25 pounds of radishes,” she said. “It really depends on the day, the menu, and Vermont. Things are going to grow different each year because of the weather. You have to be flexible.”
King found Schattman through Vermont Fresh Network. “Vermont Fresh Network ties us all together,” King said. “They are there to support chefs and farmers. They are all about the food and farm economy and to promote relationships between local farmers and chefs.”
Schattman studies Vermont agriculture and climate change at UVM Extension’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture. She is a PhD candidate in the department of plant and soil science, hoping to finish next year.
Bella Farm is a 20-acre property with 4-acres of cultivation. Schattman started her operation in 2009 in Burlington as part of the Intervale Farm Incubation Program, and moved it out to Monkton in 2012. It’s certified organic.
The Intervale’s Farm Incubation Program was founded in 1990 on 135-acres in Burlington to help new farmers learn the trade and avoid start-up barriers.
Native Vermonter Schattman, 32, had known she wanted her own farm since she was 25-years-old. “I love working outside, problem solving, farming is physically rewarding, intellectually demanding, and it’s fun.”
Vermont Fresh Network has made it easier for Schattman to facilitate connections. Along with Wake Robin she also sells produce to Basin Harbor and Porter Hospital.
“It really is all about personalities and relationships,” Schattman said. King agreed. “We decided to give her a try four years ago and we have become friends over the years. I catered her wedding,” she said with a laugh. Beef brisket needed to be pulled out of the smoker at Wake Robin mid-day, green beans needed to be prepared, and radishes needed slicing for a green, garden salad. King had little time to chat.
“It’s a great time of year,” she said. “Salad greens, tomatoes, a lot of grilled veggies, and all the fresh herbs we can use.”
Vermont Fresh Network’s Annual Forum Fundraising Dinner is happening at Shelburne Farms from 5pm to 8:30pm on Sunday, Aug. 2. For more information visit www.vermontfresh.net.
‘Contact Lynn Monty at 985-3091 or Lynn@WindRidgePublishing.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VermontSongbird.