Vermont Sail Freight Project’s Ceres Setting Sail

vermontceresIn April, we posted about the Vermont Sail Freight Project, a plan to build a sailing cargo barge to carry non-perishable produce down Lake Champlain to the Hudson River and onward to markets along the river and in New York City.  They were attempting to raise $15,000 to complete the barge, which was already under construction.  They succeeded in raising $16,754 and now, only six months later,  the sailing barge Ceres is about to set off on her first 330-mile journey downriver. She will be carrying produce from 30 different farms and will be making stops at historic river towns along the way, selling goods at “pop-up” markets along the riverside.  She is expected to arrive in New York harbor toward the end of the month and will be calling at the Navy Yard and South Street Seaport.  Click here to learn more.

Floating farmers market to revive historic trade route

“We’re trying to rebuild a whole sector that’s been decimated and open new opportunities for young farmers and rebuild a whole aspect of the culture that’s very nearly been lost entirely,” said project director Erik Andrus, who also farms rice and grass-fed beef at Boundbrook Farm in Ferrisburgh, Vt.

The cargo in the Ceres will be sold at existing farmers markets along the route and under a pop-up tent the Vermont crew will set up when they need to go solo. They will also do direct-to-door delivery at ports, where individuals and businesses have placed orders. Trucks will be used for big orders. But individuals in New York will see their orders arrive via Revolution Rickshaws, a city pedicab and freight company.

“We’re flexible about our approach. The delivery of preordered goods can happen in any location,” Andrus said. “The ordering is a bit like, and the boat is the delivery mechanism like UPS.”

Northeast shoppers can order though Good Eggs, a San Francisco-based online marketplace that specializes in home delivery of farmers market-type goods. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Good Eggs has 150 local farmers and food preparers offering goods for sale, said Cathy Bishop, spokeswoman for Good Eggs.

The Vermont Sail offerings through Good Eggs include 100 items, including maple syrup, honey, apples, heirloom beans, potatoes, onions, garlic, squash, sauerkraut, tea, sea salt and soap.

Vermont Sail Freight Project: Maiden Voyage from Visual River Studios on Vimeo.

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8 Responses to Vermont Sail Freight Project’s Ceres Setting Sail

  1. Louis Cohen says:

    A charming historical re-enactment, but not a serious business. Presumably the barge motors back upstream.

  2. DAVID RYE says:

    Congratulations on achieving the objects of your project.
    I wish you fair winds and a safe passage.
    David Rye England

  3. Rick Spilman says:

    Louis, how serious a business it is remains to be seen, but I am impressed by their marketing and organization. They may do very well indeed.

    And you presume wrong about motoring “upstream.” The Hudson River is a tidal estuary for over 150 miles, up to Troy, New York, which is why the tribal name for the Hudson is “the river that flows both ways.” The current changes every six and half hours, so “upstream” and “downstream” are relative terms.

  4. Hopefully they will be able to make a success of this floating “farmers market” which are always great places to shop. Perhaps they could take “crew-guests” who pay for the trip. Just as long as they avoid the “passengers” sobriquet.

    Good Watch.

  5. tom russell says:

    they could not afford to build the boat themselves and asked for $15k donations. is this a nonprofit?

  6. Rick Spilman says:

    Crowdsourcing is not an unusual way to raise start-up money these days.

  7. chuck samul says:

    This is an interesting project for fun, but it is very hard to see how it can sustain itself financially. I do not know if the operators are serious about making money or just trying to make a point.

    There are many good reasons why the barges were largely displaced by the railroads and why the railroads have lost market share to trucks – TIME being the strongest reason. Although some market share is returning to rail thanks mostly to intermodal.

    I support the slow food movement, but that does not mean the food should be shipped slowly.

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