On May 27th 2020, NOFA-VT visited Fairfax, the home of River Berry Farm, to make a pizza lunch of gratitude for their farm crew. Fueled by the promise of a post-bake swim, we stretched doughs, topped pizzas with fresh asparagus and basil from the farm, shared slices with River Berry’s crew of 10, and crafted curbside pizzas for pick up for nearby farms, West Farm and Knee Deep Farm, both located in Jeffersonville.
Located alongside the Lamoille River, River Berry Farm is owned and operated by husband and wife team Jane Sorensen and Dave Marchant. With the help of their 8-10 seasonal employees, they manage 18,000 square feet of greenhouse space and grow 50 acres of certified organic vegetables, 3 acres of strawberries, and 1.5 acres of raspberries. Much of their produce is sold and distributed through Deep Root Organic Co-op, as well as their on-site farmstand, CSA, and many local retailers and co-ops. They also offer pick-your-own berries in the summer months.
Tying in her experience as a retired landscape architect, Jane manages the nursery, which offers a creative array of bedding plants and veggie starts. Jane places a special emphasis on pollinator-friendly perennials and native plants suited to replacing the traditional lawn. After seeing a need for more nurseries offering pollinator-friendly perennials, Jane established Northeast Pollinator Plants in 2012, a regional web-based storefront that distributes to New England and New York.
One of the reasons why we were so excited to visit with the folks at River Berry Farm is because of their deep commitment to the hiring of young people and for working to offer meaningful agricultural work to Vermont’s next generation of farmers, food producers and local food system advocates. Dave and Jane shared that the farm has had over 280 employees since the farm was established in 1992, 20 of whom that they know of have gone on to create their own food and farm businesses. A commitment early on to keeping their workforce local allowed many people, including me, the opportunity to truly see and participate in the hard work it takes to grow food in Vermont.