I’m Erik Andrus, a farmer in Ferrisburgh, Vermont. Not a career boatbuilder by any means, though I have messed around with it a little bit. I’ve built all sorts of other stuff throughout the years from lutes to furniture to timber-frame houses. I live with my wife Erica and sond Julien (7) and Robin (5). I’m interested in low-tech approaches to food and energy issues. I like to reflect on how our forebears made do and how this could inform the present, if only we can resist the magnetism of the couch.
The Vermont Sail Freight Project originated out of our farm’s commitment to resilient food systems. 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, corporation-dominated distribution systems. The idea of a small, producer-owned craft sailing goods to market, perhaps even a distant market, is an alternative to this system, and one which has served our region well in the past.
At first, I started thinking of this mission more as a food related publicity stunt, and was considering building more of a kind of a raft than an actual boat. I thought I would carry tonnage of rice downstream and dismantle the raft and return by land. Over time the mission has been refined a bit, as I’ve gotten good input from others, including boatbuilders Douglas Brooks and Dave Zeiger. Now the project has a design that we aim to bring about, and a mission. After considering the project’s likely appeal to folks in the Lower Hudson who 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.
Now the project is advancing as a partnership between my own farm, as the first of hopefully many participating farms, and the Willowell Foundation. This joint endeavor will benefit farmers and markets in the lower Hudson while providing an outstanding experiential education opportunity to Willowell students and volunteers.
You could sum the project up like this:
8 tons of grains, roots, wine, cider, and maple syrup.
300 nautical miles.
Port of Origin: Ferrisburgh, Vermont, on the shores of Lake Champlain
Destination: New York City
Please follow this blog as we work towards the launch of our model in fall 2013.