UNITY — Maine Farmland Trust and Unity Barn Raisers recently announced that Veggies For All has returned to its roots. As of this spring, VFA is once again a project under Unity Barn Raisers, according to a news release from the trust.

The program was founded in 2007 by young farmers who recognized the potential for local agriculture to relieve hunger. UBR provided support to the project when it launched, including fiscal sponsorship and administrative support. For the next seven years the program grew significantly and matured into a food bank farm capable of producing tons of local produce for hunger relief. In 2014, the program became a program of the trust where it has operated as part of a larger organization, connecting the dots between farm viability and food insecurity. In 2018, the program held a series of community-based evaluations involving different program stakeholders. “The clear message from these evaluation efforts was that the heart of VFA lies within the Unity community,” said Erica Buswell, vice president of programs at the trust, according to the release. “The program is most valuable as a vehicle for community building and engagement around food and farming.”

“UBR was eager to take on a successful, place-based, community-building, hunger-relief program like Veggies For All because our values, service area, and community network is a perfect match to theirs,” said Janis Balda, UBR’s board chairwoman, according to the release. “Unity Barn Raisers’ work focuses on improving the vibrancy, sustainability, and health of our community for all people, so VFA will be a natural extension of our current programs.”

MFT and UBR have been working for the past several months to develop a sustainable and responsible transfer of the program from MFT to UBR. Both partners envision that this transfer brings with it an opportunity to rethink the programming and continue to support the program’s hunger relief and educational objectives in new, exciting and diversified ways that reflect the Unity community’s interests, such as an integration with UBR’s established gleaning program. During the coming growing season, UBR will focus VFA program activities on maintaining the program’s powerful and effective Gleaning Initiative, which connects those in the community that are food insecure with the excess crops that inevitably get left behind in our local farmers fields.

“MFT has been honored to be VFA’s organizational home for the past four growing seasons and we are excited about the prospect of the program’s growth and change under UBR’s care,” said Buswell, according to the release. “We’re committed to doing everything we can to ensure the transition feels smooth and supported and we look forward to watching how the program will flourish in this next phase of its life.”

For more information about VFA and the Gleaning Initiative, contact Unity Barn Raisers at 948-9005 or ubr@uninets.net.

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