Vermont Farmers Food Center is working closely with state and regional agencies to expedite the testing necessary to move forward with the environmental clean up in Farmers Hall.
“Our goal is to be able to safely reopen Farmers Hall and welcome the Vermont Farmers Market back to their winter home by next fall,” says Heidi Lynch, VFFC’s Interim Executive Director.
Engineers working on VFFC’s behalf recently submitted a work plan to the Department of Environmental Conservation detailing the next steps of the design process. Additional testing is needed in order to design a proposed mitigation and/or remediation system to resolve the contamination found on site. VFFC is working with the Rutland Regional Planning Commission’s Brownfields program to coordinate and fund the testing and engineering work necessary to move this project forward.
The environmental assessment that led to discovery of the air quality issue in Farmers Hall is part of VFFC’s current campus expansion project, which will expand the region’s agricultural infrastructure. “This project is more important now than ever for our community," explains Lynch. "We have learned through Covid that we as a region are food insecure. We've seen it in the empty shelves in our grocery stores, when the global supply chain fell apart. We have local farmers who are eager to feed us, but the infrastructure necessary to get the food from our local farms to our tables needs to be established. This campus expansion project will increase our region’s food security, and allow our regional farmers and food-based businesses to thrive.”
“Although unexpected, the discovery of TCE in Farmers Hall has empowered VFFC to initiate necessary clean-up of this former industrial site in the heart of our community,” says Lynch. “Our whole campus underwent the environmental assessment and now we have knowledge of what industrial contaminants exist on this site. We can now seek resources to clean it up.”
The Winter Farmers Market and small food businesses that rented space in VFFC’s Farmers Hall have temporarily relocated off-site; some are still looking for relocation spaces that meet their needs. VFFC’s current food access programs continue and have moved all operations to a separate building on the West Street campus.
Vermont Farmers Food Center is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization founded in 2012 as a grassroots, volunteer-led project. 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.
Further information about VFFC may be found at vermontfarmersfoodcenter.org.