Amber Arnold, co-director of the SUSU commUNITY farm, tends some veggies growing for the BIPOC CSA.
Courtesy photo/Commons file
Amber Arnold, co-director of the SUSU commUNITY farm, tends some veggies growing for the BIPOC CSA.

Two county initiatives receive state agriculture grant money

SUSU commUNITY Farm receives $50,000; Retreat Farm’s Community Food Project gets $19,700

BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets has announced grant awards from a new competitive round of Local Food Purchase Assistance funding, and two Windham County organizations are among the recipients of the total $200,000 awarded.

SUSU commUNITY Farm in Newfane will receive $50,000 to launch an expanded, free CSA (community supported agriculture) program to provide “locally grown, culturally-relevant” vegetables for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) families and new refugees.

Retreat Farm's Community Food Project in Brattleboro has been awarded $19,700 to provide 25 free CSA shares to families in need through its farm share and other food distribution efforts.

“We are really excited to receive this support,” says founder and Collaborative Director Amber Arnold. “SUSU is deeply grateful to receive this impactful funding alongside some of our incredible friends and comrades like Conscious Homestead [a BIPOC-centered urban homestead in Winooski, which received $37,319].”

Initiatives funded with the new round of grant money include “diverse projects to purchase from socially disadvantaged Vermont farmers and producers and distribute to underserved community members across the state.”

Projects will focus on “increasing equity and cultivating new relationships between local growers and entities providing food to their neighbors” and will start this spring and run for one year.

Arnold explains that SUSU's Box of Resilience Program provides BIPOC, new refugee, and migrant farmworker families “20 weeks of free, culturally-relevant, and locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, medicinals, flowers, and other beautifully curated items from local small businesses in our commUNITY.”

After three seasons building the program, 2023 will be the first full year on the dedicated SUSU commUNITY Farm in Newfane. Arnold credits “significant grassroots support from our commUNITY [that] got us to where we are today and continues to make our work possible.”

She says the grant will contribute to SUSU's ability to set up operations to grow more free food on the farm as well as to offer new items while expanding the program to include Food as Medicine classes for participants.

“We are excited to work with our commUNITY members and volunteers to offer nourishing, culturally-affirming foods, along with classes, workshops, and opportunities that support our people in reconnecting with their ability to thrive through collective determination,” she says.

“There are so many incredible BIPOC organizations and people doing deeply needed work in Vermont. We are grateful to be one amongst many, part of a larger and interconnected web.

“We hope this funding inspires more people in our commUNITY with access to abundant resources and generational wealth to join us in making Vermont a thriving, safe, and beautiful place for people of the global majority to grow healthy nourished families for now and the next seven generations beyond.”

Retreat Farm's Community Food Project Director Lu Neuse is also grateful for the state support.

“We are very honored and excited to be recipients of the Local Food Purchase Assistance Award,” she says. “We are excited to be working with Edible Brattleboro and the ECDC Multicultural Community Center to make these shares available to refugee families in Brattleboro.”

“This money will support several important collaborative relationships aimed at strengthening farm viability, food access, and food sovereignty in our community,” Neuse says.

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