Vermont Sail Freight Project

Vermont Sail Freight Project

Vergennes, VT to New York, NY
I’m Erik Andrus, an organic farmer in Ferrisburgh, Vermont.  Not a career boatbuilder by any means, I’ve built all sorts of other stuff throughout the years from lutes to furniture, to windmills to timber-frame houses.  I live with my wife Erica and sons Julien (7) and Robin (5)  at Boundbrook Farm, our bakery and rice farm.  I’m interested in low-tech approaches to food and energy issues, and reflecting on how our forebears made do. Can their methods inform the present?

The Vermont Sail Freight Project grew from our farm’s commitment to resilient food-systems. But producing food sustainably is not enough.  The other half is sustainable transport of goods to market and equitable exchange.  A good portion of the damage conventional agriculture does to society and the environment is through our overblown, energy-intensive, highly consolidated corporate distribution systems.  The idea of a small, producer-owned craft sailing goods to market, perhaps even to a distant market, is an alternative to this system, and one which has served our region well in the past.

At first, I thought I would carry my tonnage of Vermont-grown rice downstream and dismantle the raft and return by land.  Over time the mission has been refined a bit, with input from boatbuilders Douglas Brooks and Dave Zeiger.  You can track the progress of our ideas over the past year, as well as sketches of the boat and its construction methods on the blog. 

We recognized this project's  appeal to eaters along the Lower Hudson, and all along the waterway people are eager for connection to real regional foods and its potential for long-term benefit to Vermont producers, I began to think the idea is too promising to approach it as a one-off. 

The project now launched as a fully fledged distribution company under the fiscal sponsorship of Willowell Foundation, an environmetal education non profit in Monkton VT.  And a strategic partnership in logistics, cargo, media and event support from The Greenhorns, a 6-year old grassroots young farmers organization based in Essex NY.  This cross-lake Champlain endeavor benefits the valley's farmers-- by opening dockside markets in the lower Hudson, providing a platform for discussion about farmer-owned distribution for next generation growers,  and an outstanding experiential education opportunity to Willowell students and volunteers. 

The boat carries 15 tons of cargo from 35 producers across the valley-- all of it from family farms, mostly USDA certified organic or Naturally Grown. From apples, to syrup and honey, to soap, garlic, salsa, New Farmers Almanacs, sweet potatoes and pickled beets.  A seasonal sustainable and  diverse regional diet of tomorrow is already produced today, and using the technologies of yesterday we can bring on the future. 

Thank you for supporting our project buy buying the farm products we are hauling with sail.

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