Barge filled with local foods begins new voyage to NYC
VERGENNES — A crew of four will set sail down the Hudson River early this June on the Ceres, the volunteer-built sailing barge of the Vermont Sail Freight Project, whose mission is to bring low-carbon regional food trade back to the Hudson. VSFP is entering its second season of operation and plans to host about 15 public markets on its journey down to the New York/New Jersey harbor and back.
Ceres will transport up to 12 tons of seasonal local products including grains and beans, plus value-added foods such as maple syrup, honey and pickles. Participating local producers include Champlain Orchards, Nitty Gritty Grain Co., Vermont Bean Crafters, and Champlain Valley Apiaries. Dockside markets are scheduled for Kingston, Beacon, Croton, Hudson and Whitehall.
This year, the main event of the voyage is the Great Hudson River Revival in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., the weekend of June 21. Ceres will be a “Working Waterfront” attraction at this environment and music festival hosted by Clearwater, an organization founded by the late Pete Seeger. Last fall in Beacon, the VSFP crew was honored to give Seeger a tour of Ceres. The legendary folk singer campaigned in the late 1970s to raise awareness about the health of the Hudson by constructing the sloop Clearwater, a teaching vessel that is still extremely active in its mission.
Ceres’ maiden voyage from Orwell to Brooklyn in October 2013 culminated in a week-long stay at the Brooklyn Navy Yards and a busy day at the New Amsterdam Market at the South Street Seaport. The New York Times, the New Yorker, Crain’s New York and National Geographic featured the boat’s arrival in the city.
Ferrisburgh farmer Erik Andrus conceived of the Vermont Sail Freight Project several years ago as a solution to the challenge of opening new markets for his Vermont rice without drastically increasing the operation’s carbon footprint. Last year, Andrus enlisted the Willowell Foundation, a nonprofit in Monkton dedicated to connecting people to the arts, environment and education, to act as the project’s nonprofit sponsor and educational partner.
In six short months between April and September, Andrus and dozens of volunteers built Ceres under the barn roof at Boundbrook Farm. A successful Kickstarter campaign raised over $15,000 for the construction, and the project received extra funding from the Eastman and Waterwheel Foundations. Experts in rigging, sail-making, sailing and other trades stepped up to make the project a success. The Greenhorns, a network of young farmers, helped to manage inventory and publicity for the first voyage.
The June voyage will be directed by Andrew Willner, former New York/New Jersey Baykeeper and a longtime marine sustainability advocate who has been a skipper of the schooner Pioneer and other commercial craft. Steve Schwartz will return for a second year as captain of Ceres, and recent Binghamton University graduate Matt Horgan will act as first mate. Middlebury College is sponsoring Meade Atkinson to serve as project intern through the MiddCORE program; Meade will organize cargo logistics and social media. Vermont AmeriCorps members and staff of the Willowell Foundation are assisting with educational and youth outreach.
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