The Vermont Sail Freight Project is a sail-powered transportation company, delivering sustainably farmed products to families and retailers along the historic Champlain-Hudson waterway. Our sailing barge, Ceres, named for the Roman goddess of agriculture, ferries shelf stable foods from the Champlain Valley, Vermont and the Adirondack region down to New York City and ports between maximizing windpower over costly and polluting fossil fuels.
This vessel carries forwardan honorable history of sail- powered commerce throughout Northeast waterways and particularly along the Hudson,but it’s not a reenactment. With its 15 tons of cargo, the vessel is an efficient regional food distributor, and a powerful platform for dialog about the possibilities for a truly sustainable value-chain and re-regionalized food system. Ceres makes her maiden voyage down the Hudson September 2013 and will make repeat trips in 2014 and beyond.
The goal is explicit: to advance a carbon- neutral distribution model that supports the local farm economy. Our sailing barge combines traditional technologies (sail power, rigging, winches and pulleys) with the power of crowd-sourced investment, internet commerce and grange-hall cooperative kitchens. Built from 70 pieces of off-the-shelf plywood and locally cut timber, the design is open-source online, fully replicable by other farmers and builders with good water access.
Unlike with conventional distribution companies, farmers can own a share of the vessel, and should we succeed we can build up a cooperative fleet of vessels. All of our decisions are based on the goal of meeting the needs of our users. Selling direct, and through delivery by sail helps preserve our food’s connection to place, helping us capture the price-point we need to support good land stewardship and diversified farming.
The sailing barge carries non-persishable and preserved agricultural products such as jams, jellies, pickles and condiments, along with potatoes, garlic, and other storage crops, dry beans, rice, dried herbs, maple syrup, honey, hard cider—all sustainably produced by farmers in our community. Some products are fermented, some dried or preserved with vinegar or sugar, processed in state-verified 20-c facilities by farmers and co-packers. It may seem old fashioned, but these products allow farmers to ‘add value’ to farm produce, both by extending the season, as well as by capturing new markets for finished products—the exact opposite of the commodity market that dominates the mainstream farm economy. In contrast, value-added markets are especially valuable for small and medium-sized farms with a short growing season and many start-up costs. We can personally attest that everything on board is of the high quality and integrity, most of it USDA Organic or Certified Naturally Grown.
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