Tell us a bit about Healthy Roots

The name Healthy Roots Collaborative is no mistake. It’s a partnership of community organizations, housed under the Northwest Regional Planning Commission, that addresses food access, education, and farm viability in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties.

We have several partners and each of them has a member on our advisory committee. Collectively, we have a network of nearly 200 Vermont farms and food businesses that are involved in gleaning, crop donation, field trips with schools, and much more.

What is “gleaning?”

When farmers have excess produce they can’t sell, we connect them to organizations that help the community access fresh, local food. The practice is known as “gleaning.” It’s a way for farmers to connect with their communities while also reducing food waste. We glean several tons of produce each year and distribute Everyone Eats meals at dozens of sites across the region in support of food shelves, migrant families, and kids at camps.

How do you work with Vermont farms?

Gleaning is an important part of what we do—knowing the food won’t just lie in the field, that it’ll feed their local community – that’s important to farmers. But we also exist to help farmers grow their businesses. We connect our farm partners with markets to help ensure that they remain viable into the future.

Say a farm that we glean from has a bunch of extra eggs. Healthy Roots can immediately connect that farmer to a buyer through our relationships with local restaurants, farmers markets, and food shelves. And if it doesn’t work out the first time, the farm now has the contact information to reach out to the buyer the next time they have a need. Or the connection can generate a conversation about future needs and which products are of most interest to that buyer.

We also connect farmers with grants, resources, and business support. And we also connect them with students. We’re very aware of the next generation for farmers, and we want them to be able to see what farming is like. On a field trip to West Farm, students learned about the Abenaki Land Link project and helped harvest flint corn and Algonquin squash.

What value do you see Healthy Roots bringing to northwest Vermont?

The collaborative nature is what makes Healthy Roots great. We have several partners and each one has a member on our advisory committee. That really helps us serve the large northwest region. The only reason we’re able to do anything is that we work with amazing partners.

Something that always comes up in our work is that we don’t want to be extractive in our partnerships. It’s important for us to look at the food system as a system—there’s a bit of giving and taking from all partners for the system to remain healthy. For us, it’s all about valuing the collective resources of our community and working together to build resiliency in our little corner of Vermont.