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Vermont Sustainable Agriculture Council selects Post Oil Solutions for annual award

BRATTLEBORO—The Vermont Sustainable Agriculture Council has selected Post Oil Solutions (POS) to be the 2010 recipient of its annual award. 

POS was honored at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont conference in Burlington on Feb. 13, and received at the Brattleboro Winter Farmers’ Market last Saturday.

The group was recognized for what the council called its “outstanding team effort to build sustainable, collaborative and socially just community-based food systems.”

Vern Grubinger of UVM Extension, who nominated the group, said POS is the first non-agricultural entity to receive this award.

“There was a lot of competition from other farms and organizations around the state, but Post Oil put together some impressive data about what they’ve done over the past five years, and it made a compelling case,” Grubinger said.

Some of POS’ accomplishments since its founding in 2005 include starting the Brattleboro Winter Farmers’ Market and the Townshend Farmers’ Market. starting a farm at the School for International Training (SIT) in Brattleboro, initiating three school gardens in support of local Farm to School Programs, dedicating a VISTA position for Farm to School programs in Brattleboro, and offering a series of workshops focused on eating out of the garden year-round.

What have been some of the results of this work?

According to Grubinger, sales at the Brattleboro Winter Farmers’ Market and the Townshend Farmers Market exceed $223,000 from 2009 to the present, sales of local food to low-income families in the Westgate Apartments and Elliot Street Market Basket Project total more than $10,000 to date, and direct sales through low-income food programs such as EBT and Farm to Family at all POS markets were more $8,000, and more than 700 participants gained skills in food production and preservation at 45 workshops held around Windham County.

“All this is something that you don’t see a lot of elsewhere around the country,” said Grubinger.

Tim Stevenson, one of the lead organizers of Post Oil Solutions, accepted the award from Grubinger.

“This award is not just about us,” he said. “It’s about a region and how fortunate we’ve been to work with so many different people and organizations. We have shown it’s possible for a volunteer, grassroots effort to make a difference. It’s been astonishing to see the growth of interest in local food and local agriculture in our area.”

At the same time, Stevenson acknowledges that there is still much work to be done.

Some of that work includes an ambitious project to create a local food processing and distribution center in Bellows Falls called the Greater Falls Food Hub and encouraging the formation of more Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs at local farms.

“Windham County still imports 95 percent of its food, and we need to bring that number down,” he said. “We’ve made a good start with all of our programs, but there’s lots more to do.”

The Sustainable Agriculture Council (SAC) is a legislated body with the charge to identify needs, set goals, select priorities, and make annual recommendations regarding sustainable agriculture research, demonstration, education and financing in Vermont.

Established in 1994, UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture provides timely information to Vermont communities and the UVM campus. The center cultivates understanding, innovative practices, and policies to advance sustainable food and farming in Vermont and beyond.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #89 (Wednesday, February 23, 2011).

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