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Shane Rogers
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Parsnip Party! Northern Vermont Celebrates Harvest of the Month

More than 1,400 pounds of parsnips were delivered across northern Vermont in the beginning of January as schools and businesses prepared to celebrate the Vermont Harvest of the Month (HOM).

Vermont Harvest of the month is a state-wide education campaign which celebrates a different seasonal and local Vermont product each month. The featured HOM product is showcased throughout the state and prepared as part of meals for schools and restaurants, and as taste tests, which encourage students, faculty, and other patrons of organizations and businesses to be adventurous eaters and try something new.

“Vermont Harvest of the Month is a great way to engage whole communities in trying a local and seasonal Vermont product,” says Catherine Cusack, program director for Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS), a nonprofit in Newport, Vt. which runs the HOM program, “The program is also creating demand for produce that, in turn, helps local farmers sell their products to new markets.”

Thirty-four schools across the northern Vermont region and Copley Hospital in Morrisville, Vt. placed orders for the January HOM, parsnips, through Green Mountain Farm Direct (Farm Direct), a regional food hub run by GMFTS. As a nonprofit, part of GMFTS’ mission is to encourage the consumption of seasonal and local produce throughout the community while also increasing the economic viability of small farmers in the region.

“We work with some amazing producers who go above and beyond to make sure the customers are getting their Vermont Harvest of the Month products,” says Farm Direct Coordinator Amrita Parry, “And the enthusiasm from our customers to order these products is driving demand that is helping our local producers.”

By the end of March each year, Farm Direct works with customers to plan a whole year of HOM purchases that correspond with each month’s harvest and then contracts with local farmers to meet the expected demand. Customers also receive lunch line tags with fun facts about the monthly harvest, producer profiles to showcase the farmer who grew the food, and will soon be receiving a safe handling and storage guides. HOM posters and other materials are also available for purchase as a way to further celebrate Vermont’s agriculture.

Celebrating HOM is not just limited to northern Vermont. More than 145 organizations, schools, and businesses throughout the state have signed the pledge to strive to eat locally and seasonally. For more information on Vermont Harvest of the Month visit their website. For more information on Green Mountain Farm Direct visit their website.