The Intervale Center
At A Glance
|What:||Develops sustainable agricultural and community food system solutions|
|Number of employees:||14 (2008)|
|Total revenue:||$ 2,154,874|
“Why not grow Vermont’s fresh food in Vermont, and do it sustainably?” That was the question preoccupying Will Raap in the 1980s when he had a small garden shop and catalogue, a compost pile, and a parcel of neglected land in Burlington. Back then, the “Intervale” referred to 350 acres that were historically important but had fallen into disuse.
Based on consumer research, Will saw in the land the potential to grow at least 10% of Burlington’s fresh food at the Intervale. Today Will believes that the gardens and farms on the Intervale have just about reached that goal. But equally important was how he got there. By creating a successful composting operation and inspiring the development of a dozen small farms for the city, Will’s initiative was able to revitalize the land and generate enough cash flow to support the nonprofit Intervale Center, a web of food-related enterprises and educational programs that have become the backbone of the northern Vermont’s food system.
The Intervale now houses a huge web of businesses. Besides the Gardener’s Supply family of companies is Burlington Electric’s McNeil Generating Station, the Sugarsnap Café, and the Stray Cat Flower Farm and Market. Linked with the Intervale Center itself are the dozen farms, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, the compost project, a conservation nursery, produce and farm product distribution and storage enterprises, and farm consulting services. “The Intervale at its most fundamental level is about sustainable community development,” says Executive Director Glenn McRae. “Farms and food are the vehicles we employ to build better communities.”
How do these businesses help make Burlington more sustainable? The McNeil Station generates most of Burlington’s electrical power primarily from sustainably grown Vermont wood chips. Intervale Compost transforms the city’s organic waste streams into compost and topsoil sold commercially in and around the City. And all this business activity has actually helped revive the ecological vitality of the Intervale itself, such that multiple farm enterprises can produce more than a million dollars of organically grown food for local consumption each year.