On July 21st, 2020, the NOFA-VT mobile pizza oven and team explored the Champlain Islands with a visit to Grand Isle and the home of Blue Heron Farm, to share our gratitude with a pizza lunch for their farm crew. The scenic drive along Lake Champlain’s shores was restorative and calming as we approached Quaker Road. Established in 2004, these 30 acres of conserved land stewarded by Christine Bourque, Adam Farris and their daughters has a true community spirit in every sense of the word. Matching that spirit with our mobile pizza oven, we also invited nearby Champlain Island farms Savage Gardens, Sandy Bottom Farm and Health Hero Farm to come grabpizzas to-go.
Christine and I chatted while I chopped fresh zucchinis, green garlic and juicy cherry tomatoes to top pizzas, delivered fresh from their fields by their daughter Sadie on her bicycle. The farmers at Blue Heron Farm believe that it is deeply important for “our world to have an organic, local food system.” From the get-go, they’ve set up the bounty of their fields to be for everyone. Their CSA has always operated on a sliding scale payment system, they accept EBT at their farm stand and farmers markets, and some customers utilize the option of a payment plan for their CSA shares. When COVID-19 hit Vermont, they quickly added a “Pay What You Can” option to their CSA, and people signed up - some folks unable to commit any funds at first. The farm saw their CSA grow from 50 to 85 families in the spring of 2020.
“Many of these folks had lost a job all of the sudden, or were worried about whether their employment would continue”, says Christine, “But they knew they could count on fresh food from our farm every week to feed themselves and their families. And that felt like one less thing they had to be worried about.” Longtime participants in NOFA-VT’s community food access programs Farm Share and Senior Farm Share, it’s clear that food equity is at the heart of Blue Heron’s motivation and business model.
Now in their 15th year of having a CSA program, Blue Heron has seen increased demand and need for local food like they’ve never experienced before. Running out of plant starts and eggs, and selling chickens long before they’ve grown have become norms for direct to consumer farms all across the country. The power and connectivity of the relationships that are built when we know who grows our food is something that knows no bounds. Christine described this best, in a blog post she wrote back in March titled “Hope & Resiliency”:
“These are some interesting, scary times. We just wanted to write to you all to let you know that we are here for you. Farmers are not going away. Food will be here, and we are growing as fast as we can. Please reach out with any questions, there are no silly questions. Things will be a challenge and we are up for it. Remember, we are all hopeful and resilient people.”
This mindset of hope and resilience is exactly what inspired NOFA-VT to use the mobile oven to feed those who feed us this summer. Farmers like Christine and Adam feed us in more ways than one - they nourish our souls, build our communities and fill our plates.