Rising in the town of Cabot in Washington County, Vermont, the Winooski River flows westward across half the state, winding its way through Colchester, Winooski, and Burlington on its approach to Lake Champlain. From above, it looks like a ribbon tossed upon the land.
The floodplain surrounding the Winooski has long been known as the Intervale. The site of sustained agriculture for thousands of years, the Intervale saw hard times in the middle of the last century, as squatter’s camps, junked cars, and the city dump made their impact on its fertile lands. In response, the Intervale Center was formed in 1988 to help rehabilitate the area, and its work recognizes and promotes the power of what beneficiaries and stewards of the land can do collectively. With a mission to “strengthen community food systems,” the nonprofit Intervale Center has developed into an organization that works to “enhance farm viability, promote the sustainable use of agricultural lands, and engage people in the food system.”
The work the Intervale Center does is “organized into three buckets,” says Donor Relations Manager Shana Trombley. In the first bucket are the center’s business support services, and in fact, the center is the largest provider of farm business services in Vermont. Intervale Center offers an intensive two-year farm viability program that helps farmers take their business from its inception to the type of farm that they envision. This may involve everything from helping the farmer set up an accounting system to developing markets for their produce. “This work is vital to preserve the working landscape in Vermont,” says Shana. Aside from a one-time application fee, the entire two-year program is free to farmers and enabled by donations.
The second bucket contains their land stewardship work. The center works to educate farmers on how to follow clean water regulations. Once upon a time, it was common for farmers to plant right up to the river’s edge, contributing to erosion and runoff of fertilizer into the water. The Intervale Center is instrumental in restoring the riparian buffers that protect water quality. On their 360-acre campus tucked into the floodplain of the Winooski River north of Burlington, they grow 100,000 native trees that are then transplanted to restore that riparian buffer. The center works not just with farmers but with municipalities and land trust organizations to minimize erosion through this planting program.
The third bucket holds the community work the Intervale Center does to make local food more available to everyone. Their gleaning and food rescue efforts provide produce for their Fair Share program, which is like a CSA for people living within a low income. Summervale is a weekly outdoor event, held on Thursdays from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., that is open to the public. Featuring local food, live music, food tastings, and kids’ activities, the event is aimed at giving people the opportunity to experience and appreciate the products of Vermont’s agriculture. Summervale has no admission fee, but donations are gratefully accepted.
As a nonprofit, the Intervale Center relies on the generous donations of individuals and businesses in the community. Mascoma Bank is proud to support the good work being done by nonprofit organizations like the Intervale Center and we invite you to join us in supporting groups that make our communities healthier and happier. Visit the Intervale Center donations page for more information.