On Tuesday, October 22, a sail frieghter from Vermont will dock overnight at the Hook Mountain Yacht Club laden with produce. Eric Andrus built the boat to create “a carbon-neutral transport company connecting the farms and forests of Vermont with the Lower Hudson Valley.”
Here is how Andrus describes the genesis of this project that is both a throw-back and a leap-forward. He starts his tale with summary data that captures the enormity and simplicity of the venture:
- 15 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
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 sons Julien (8) and Robin (6). 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.
Docking Details for Delivered by Sail
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 was too promising to approach it as a one-off.
Now the project has evolved into a partnership between my own farm and over 30 other participating farms, Greenhorns (a young farmer activism and advocacy network) and the Willowell Foundation. Leaning heavy on a volunteer-driven, crowdsource-funded approach we have built Ceres and are sending her down the Hudson on September 6th, 2013! This joint endeavor will benefit farmers and markets in the lower Hudson while providing an outstanding experiential education opportunity for students and communities, and for making friends and building connection along the way.
- Video: Vermont Sail Freight Project Maiden Voyage
- Nyack Sketch Log: Hook Mountain Yacht Club
- Nyack Sketch Log: Requiem for a Barge & Barn