The Vermont Farmers Food Center lives on the former home of the Lincoln Iron Works. Read about the history of the site here, The Story of Lincoln Iron Works, By Jack Crowther, Rutland Historical Society Quarterly, Volume 43, No. 2, 2013.
Vermont Farmers Food Center (VFFC) began as a grassroots, volunteer- led project and is spearheading the rebuilding of infrastructure necessary for agriculture to serve as a regional economic engine through the development of 2.93 acres of industrially zoned land with four existing buildings in the heart of Downtown Rutland.
VFFC increases access and availability of locally produced food in the Rutland Region by expanding markets and market access, aggregation, and distribution of locally produced and value added agricultural products. VFFC is the initiative of the Vermont Farmers Market Education Center, Inc., a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization founded in Rutland, Vermont, in 2012.
Several years of discussions involving farmers, value-added producers, local food consumers, and community organizations, regarding the success of the Rutland Summer Farmers Market, led to discussion for the demand for a Rutland Winter Farmers Market, and the desire to increase access and availability of locally produced food.
VFFC is developing an agricultural center to create opportunities and economic viability to mentor and sustain emerging agricultural-based businesses, resulting in building a local food system around sustainable farming practices. VFFC’s agricultural center will create opportunities for farm production and marketing expansion by providing the storage, aggregation, and efficiencies to tap larger markets. VFFC’s agricultural center’s storage infrastructure will also address the Rutland Region’s food security challenges. A shared-use commercial kitchen will serve as a regulatory umbrella for value added agricultural businesses with workforce development capacity to address economic security and societal needs. VFFC’s vision includes a Community Kitchen Institute – a training program for unemployed and underemployed Vermonters who are interested in food-related careers - as well as, educational agricultural seminars and workshops, which provide information and demonstrate agricultural techniques. VFFC is exploring the development of an export agricultural market to Manhattan and Boston. VFFC’s agricultural center’s Farmers Hall, with a Community Learning Kitchen, and second floor Educational Classroom and balcony, not only serves as home to the Winter Farmers Market, but also serves as an event center year ‘round.
VFFC has grown to support the community with a number of programs, relocalizing the food system through education, food access, and infrastructure.
The Farmacy Project, which began in 2015, increases the access and consumption of healthy foods for at-risk health families in Rutland County. The Farmacy Project is an innovative collaboration working at the intersection of agriculture, public health, and economic development. VFFC partners with economically challenged new and emerging local farms, primary health care providers, and educators. VFFC's Farmacy Project offers an actionable preventative health initiative engaging community volunteers, framers, and members as part of the regional food network.
Our Farm-Based Experiential Learning program or FABEL, began with the construction of our educational greenhouse as part of the Rutland Rotary's Centennial project. FABEL began providing greenhouse educational programs with Rutland City Public School classes in 2018. The program continues to grow, but the goals of creating healthy eating habits, life-long cooking and gardening skills, and creating understanding of how we all fit into our local agricultural landscape continue to guide FABEL.
When the covid-19 pandemic began VFFC responded by creating our online market, a curbside pick up farmers market, to create a safe option for farmers and customers to connect.
VFFC also joined with food hubs across the state to administer Vermont Everyone Eats, a prepared meal drive through food access program that served 2 million meals state wide by the end of 2021. The program creates more opportunities for both local farmers and restaurants while supporting community members that were affected by the pandemic.
VFFC is a visionary, entrepreneurial organization, committed to an agricultural economy, which grows local foods and creates jobs, promoting community economic development. VFFC’s agricultural infrastructure provides the region economic stimulus that adds jobs in diverse sectors as dollars become more available on a regional basis. The result is a vibrant and sustainable regional agricultural system, preserving the working landscape, while improving the capacity to feed Vermonters, regardless of economic status, improving health, and enhancing the Rutland Region’s economic wellbeing.