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Locals gather to celebrate veteran farms


In 2017, VCRD brought its Climate Economy Model Communities process to Pownal where residents identified a number of action ideas for future progress in town. This article shares some of the work that evolved from the process.


By Christie Wisniewski, as seen in the Bennington Banner:

BENNINGTON— Friends, family, and community members gathered for a hearty and locally sourced community picnic to celebrate Independence Day and recognize veteran farmers.

Pownal-based Harwood Homestead, run by former Marine Ashley Harwood and his wife Sarah, supplied some of the feast including fresh barbecued pork and chicken. The Harwoods pride themselves for having regenerative principles, earth-friendly crop and pasture rotation, as well as humanely raised animals. Their farm is a "Homegrown by Heroes Farm" according to the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Vermont.

The holiday was their first time participating in a veteran farmers picnic, but they did provide chicken to the Vermont Veterans Home this Memorial Day. Also at the picnic, they brought homemade jams, jellies, and soaps to sell.

In addition to the barbecued meat, the meal included artfully crafted side salads from Winchester's Deli, plentiful iced tea and water, festive cupcakes, and more.

Shannon Barsotti, of Longview Farm has helped with the "Discover Pownal Farms and Food" initiative that ultimately led to this picnic.

"The theme of today is to support our farmers and veterans," she said.

She also hopes that events like this will help attract more people to Vermont and also help get more veterans involved in farming.

The "Discover Pownal Farms and Food" series is a community-led celebration of Pownal farms. This is the inaugural year of the series, and events will be held through September to showcase local farms and food producers. Each event is family friendly and costs $5 per person, and children under 12 are free.

Barsotti says "Discover Pownal" was made possible by a small grant from the Vermont Community Foundation with assistance from Northshire Grows, Inc.

Liz Ruffa is the executive director of Northshire Grows, which she describes as a "food systems network" for Bennington County. This network helps farmers reach new markets, gain more representation, and even brings collaboration between farmers and schools for healthy meals.

She commended the "wonderful energy" of the picnic and was pleased at how many people had come to grab a bite to eat.

"Everybody needs to discover Pownal's farms," she said. "There's a very robust group of veteran farmers throughout the state."