University of Vermont

The Women's Agricultural Network

Agency Spotlight

NOFA-VT Education Director Abbie Nelson

Abbie Nelson With over 20 years as an educator, Abbie Nelson brings together agricultural education and nutrition, and connects farms to schools in her role as education director at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT). She also manages NOFA’s Community Mentor Program, which has nine regional mentors who help connect farmers with the community. Part of this program is the Farmer Correspondence Program wherein farmers are matched with local classrooms to write and share life and work on the farm during the winter months. This last year 73 Vermont farmers wrote to 83 classrooms, and 20 of those classrooms were able to visit their farmer pen pal on the farm. Sign up for this opportunity this fall by contacting Abbie.

In addition to her direct work with NOFA VT, Abbie is the director of the Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) project. a collaboration of three non-profits: Food Works at Two Rivers Center, NOFA VT, and Shelburne Farms. VT FEED works to connect schools and communities to the roots of their nourishment- both at the human and natural resource level. Through education and outreach, the organization raises awareness about healthy food,. FEED acts “as a catalyst for rebuilding healthy food systems, and to cultivate links between the classrooms, cafeterias, local farms, and communities”. In addition to VT FEED’s three partners, there are other collaborating partners, such as: Hunger Free Vermont, Child Nutrition Program of the Dept. of Education, VT Dept. of Health, UVM,  and the Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets, and other Farm to School Programs in VT and New England.

When asked about the structure of VT FEED, Abbie notes the unique three-partner arrangement, and explains that it has been a key factor in successful Farm to School programming in Vermont. The “three Cs" approach, connecting classroom, cafeteria, community, "brings students deeper into the origin of their food, and has seen lasting results in the students involved," she says. These results can be found in the daily changing tastes and choices of students, resulting in healthier and more sustainable relationships with their meals. Abbie also says that classroom visits to farms have changed over time, and students are asking more informed and in-depth questions.  

Whether it is a visit to a farm or an in-class taste test, Abbie’s work enhances student engagement with food, while increasing access to fresh, local and healthy food. She also works with food service personnel, connecting them with farmers and helping them work with resources that make local food purchases possible. She says that procurement plays an important role, but full community involvement is even more critical. Schools, farmers, advocates and government agencies all have a part in this, and cooperation between all of these players is essential.

VT FEED and the National Farm to School Network are hosting the 2012 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference August 3-5 2012 at the University of Vermont. The conference will offer seven field trips and 36 workshops from presenters who hail from all over the US and Canada, with the goal of increasing the connection between farms and institutional food services. The opening lunch will feature a local food demonstration from several Vermont Junior Iron Chef teams. For more information about the conference go to: Scholarships are available for Vermont farmers through the Vermont Farm Women's Fund.

Contact Abbie Nelson about the NOFA VT Farm to Community Mentor Program or VT FEED at the following: or 802-434-4122




Last modified July 16 2012 11:59 AM

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