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VPR Table: Pete's Greens

01/21/11 5:55PM
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courtesy petesgreens.com
Barn Fire at Pete's Greens

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Pete’s Greens is a four-season organic vegetable farm located in Craftsbury, Vermont. They grow fresh vegetables with an emphasis on baby greens, heirloom tomatoes, and root crops. On January 12th, a fire destroyed Pete's Greens barn. Listen to The VPR Table Friday evening and Saturday morning to learn how Pete's Greens commitment to local food production and consumption has affected the VT food economy.

The Fire at Pete's Greens

Marialisa Calta

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Back in 2008, when Vermont Life published its first-ever issue focused on food, Pete Johnson of Pete's Greens in Craftsbury was on the cover. Johnson, a native Vermonter, has made his life's work feeding the hunger for locally grown, sustainably-farmed food.

The news that a fire demolished Johnson's barn last week was sad, sadder still because of the crops and equipment lost, and the fact that it was underinsured by several hundred thousand dollars. But I couldn't help thinking ..it could have been worse. No people or animals were injured. Plus, it's winter; the only season when a farmer has time to regroup. Does it really matter that patrons of high-end restaurants won't be dining on Johnson's braised fennel this season? Or that members of his CSA will have to survive without deliveries of nitrate-free bacon?

It turns out it does matter, in ways that may not be immediately apparent.

For example, Johnson's CSA purchases more than $100,000 worth of food each winter from other local producers - of meat, apples, bread and grains - to include in weekly deliveries. These businesses will miss the income.
Pete's Greens donates about 35,000 pounds of produce a year to the Vermont Food bank - more than half from winter storage. Hungry Vermonters will suffer the loss.   Scores of churches, schools, arts organizations and other non-profits benefit from food donations; their budgets will reflect the absence.  Restaurants have built reputations on serving local food; they're down one reliable, high-quality source.   And, Johnson employs 11 people in the winter; most will be laid off for the near future. The local economy will feel the blow.

In short, Pete's Greens is part of a web that links thousands of people together. The silver lining is that, as Johnson supported the web, it is now supporting him, with offers of help so overwhelming that he says he hopes to rebuild with extra equipment- like vegetable processing machinery and freezer space -- for other producers to share.

"Sometimes," before the fire, he says "I felt alone in this." "I'll never feel that way again."

You can learn more about Pete's Greens and contribute to help rebuild at Pete's Greens website.

 

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