Vital Communities, the non-profit organization working to cultivate the civic, environmental, and economic vitality of the Upper Valley, was recently awarded a $200,000 New England Food Vision Prize for a multi-partner project. The Food Vision Prize aims to build resiliency, relationships, and capacity within New England’s farm-to-institution supply chain.

“This project will create a stable market for local producers, open stable sales channels for BIPOC producers, increase the amount of local ingredients in our institutions, and strengthen our local economy,” Vital Communities director of food & farm and economy, Nancy LaRowe, of Norwich, said.

The project came together when long-time Vital Community Upper Valley Everyone Eats partner, Global Village Foods – an African-inspired prepared food producer based in Quechee –  brought the idea of applying for a Food Vision prize to Vital Communities. Already sourcing from local farms for their UVEE meals, Global Village Foods realized they needed more and different equipment and a partner to help connect with local farms.

With this awarding of the prize, Global Village Foods will now have the means to produce meals at a large scale for institutions, starting with the University of Vermont, with food grown in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Eli Hirsch and Valerie Woodhouse run Honey Field Farm

“We’re super excited because we have always tried to source our ingredients locally,” said Mel Hall, owner of Global Village Foods along with his wife, Damaris. “As we begin to rebound from the pandemic, this grant enables us to grow from a small regional specialty brand to having national potential, and to carry those local growers with us and offer them a guaranteed revenue stream.”

One of the local growers partnering with Global Village Foods is our own Honey Field Farm run by Eli Hirsch and Valerie Woodhouse, a 35-acre family farm located on Butternut Road in Norwich on the site of the former Killdeer Farm.

Making their start in Spring 2020, Hirsch and Woodhouse came to Norwich from Fairfax, VT looking to grow their small organic farm. They’d been searching for the right spot to take their business to the next level and found their ideal location at Killdeer. “We were excited to move to this community. It seemed like a community that was already really supportive of local agriculture,” Woodhouse said. The Norwich community has lived up to its reputation. “[The community] has been 5000% supportive,” she added. “[They’ve] really rallied to help us get on our feet and show up at the farm.”

It was at a Norwich Farmers Market that Valerie and Eli met Mel. Mel was sharing the Global Village Foods project with vendors, and Honey Field Farm’s wholesale veggie operation fit exactly into what Global Village Foods was looking for. This past September the two food-providers started working together.

“We’re definitely excited to work with them. We love working with food processors and local makers,” Hirsch said.

One of the reasons Hirsch and Woodhouse love working with food processors is the predictability of the market. “Every week since we began working with Global Village Foods, they’ve been buying 50 pounds of spinach. It’s something we know is going to happen and we can plan for it in advance. It is a huge relief to have stability and consistency. We can go into next year knowing the crop we plant has a home.,” Woodhouse said.

Global Village Foods supplier Honey Field Farms greenhouses

Honey Field Farms has been supplying Global Village Foods with scallions and spinach this fall and intends to plan more crops for the upcoming season with Mel and Damaris over the winter.

Beyond the stability provided by their partnership with Global Village Foods, Hirsch and Woodhouse appreciate the ability to widen their farm’s market. “We really like any opportunity we have to put more Vermont food into the regional foods system beyond our local relationships.” In addition to supplying our local coops and markets, Hirsch said. “We really appreciate when we’re able to send our food to other communities, other states, and other parts of the food system.”

Honey Field Farm’s food will be doing just that as it travels north with Global Village Food meals to the University of Vermont dining halls as part of Vital Communities Food Vision prize project.