On July 29th, 2020, the NOFA-VT mobile pizza oven and team ventured south with a visit to Shaftsbury and the home of Clear Brook Farm, to share our gratitude with a pizza lunch for their farm crew. Owned and operated by Andrew Knafel, 2020 is the farm’s 26th season. Each year, the farm cultivates 45 acres of land, 25 of which are used to produce vegetables and small fruits, while the rest regenerates in cover crop and straw. The farm boasts an incredible selection of annuals and perennials, with 600 varieties started by seed each spring, as well as a full-service farm stand that carries everything from beets to brownies - from their own fields and a slew of other local producers.
Upon arrival, Andrew greeted our staff with ice-cold ginger tea and a mountain of field-fresh veggies to top the pizzas. Andrew and his team exude gratitude and you are warmed by it as soon as you pull into the parking lot. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the farm stand has reserved Wednesday mornings as ‘elder hours’ for folks looking to shop with less traffic, asking for this time to be ‘respected for the safety of our community’ on their website. But long before the realities of wearing a mask while grabbing carrots from your local farmer, Clear Brook has had food access and equity at its center.
Since 2003, Clear Brook Farm has participated in two core NOFA-VT community food access programs, Senior Farm Share and Farm Share, both which increase food access for limited-income community members. Since they began participating, the farm has provided shares to over 1,500 seniors and 15 households in their community. Last year, the farm joined the pilot year of NOFA-VT’s 3SquaresVT Farm Stand Match program, where customers save 50% on fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and plant seeds and starts when they spend their 3SquaresVT benefits at participating farm stands. The program continues this summer with four farms now participating around the state.
When we think about what makes the Vermont local food system truly whole, access to the movement feels like the first step. We at NOFA-VT are grateful to farms like Clear Brook Farm for turning that vision into action.