Program Provides Farmstand Gift Cards to Vermonters Experiencing Food Insecurity | Food News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Program Provides Farmstand Gift Cards to Vermonters Experiencing Food Insecurity


Published February 17, 2022 at 9:39 a.m.

Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford
When Meaghin Kennedy and Justin Reidy moved from Oregon to Charlotte, Vt., in March 2019, they immediately signed up for a community-supported agriculture share.

The couple treasures taking their two young children to pick up the family’s weekly vegetable share and to local farmstands for fresh eggs or winter squash. They chose Vermont in part because the distance between farm and plate is so short and “agriculture pervades the culture,” Reidy said.

But Kennedy and Reidy soon realized that what was accessible to them was not equally available to all of their neighbors — and resolved to do something to help. The result is Farm Stand Together, which will run a pilot this summer providing farmstand gift cards of at least $50 to up to 200 Vermont households experiencing food insecurity.

“There’s almost this idea that if you’re hungry, you should take what you can get. Healthy food is seen as a privilege,” Reidy said. “The bounty should be shared with the people who need it. Their own neighbors might be growing it.”

Farm Stand Together combines Kennedy’s experience working for farms in Portland and in the Washington, D.C., farm-to-school movement, with her husband’s tech start-up background. During the pandemic, they noticed that high demand for local food prompted many farms to build and expand farmstands, and equip them with self-service, electronic point-of-sale systems that easily accommodate gift cards.
Justin Reidy, Meaghin Kennedy and their children - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Justin Reidy, Meaghin Kennedy and their children
While Reidy noted that there are several programs that help defray the cost of local food for low-income Vermonters, he and his wife wanted to try a new option that was as convenient and straightforward as possible for shoppers and farmers. All people are eligible, and Farm Stand Together’s short, self-qualifying online survey includes a spot to list favorite local farmstands.

Recipients of gift cards will use them like a credit card to “shop like everyone else, with no stigma and no limitations,” Reidy said. The couple will pay for the gift cards and is funding the pilot themselves.

They’ve consulted with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont to design the program and spread the word. Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction highlighted the opportunity in a recent e-newsletter.

“Shopping locally from small businesses is so important, but it's not always easy or affordable,” said Alec Struver, the center’s administrator. “Farm Stand Together makes it easier and will encourage people to go to their local farmstand.”

Farm Stand Together will take applications through March and send out gift cards by the end of May. When pilot results are in, Reidy hopes to leverage his tech network.

“We could pitch it to Square or another point-of-sale company to sponsor,” he suggested.

NOFA-VT’s executive director Grace Oedel described Farm Stand Together as a win-win for limited-income Vermonters and farmers.

“Farmstands are a critical direct market for many Vermont farms,” she said. “We love seeing projects like this emerge spontaneously from community members.”