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Farm-to-Table Apprenticeships

Farm-to-Table Apprenticeships


In 2015, Strolling of the Heifers organized its first Farm-to-Table Apprenticeship Program, which recruited, trained, and placed 11 formerly unemployed or underemployed people into permanent, full-time employment in the culinary field. Please click here for information about our ongoing program.

The program was supported in its first year through generous grants from the Walmart Foundation, The Sandy River Charitable Foundation, and the Procter & Gamble Foundation. In 2016, it is supported by grants from the Sandy River Charitable Trust, the Thomas Thompson Trust and the Brattleboro Retreat.

Funding is now being assembled to repeat the program in the summer of 2016.


19320765748_7432fcd5f8_zThis program is designed to tackle several significant and needs:

  • Underemployment in the region among certain population sectors;
  • A shortage of adequately trained workers for the region’s food production enterprises, restaurants and institutional kitchens
  • The impact on our regional economy of the closing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant (a cumulative loss of 600 jobs beginning December 2014, with a negative payroll impact exceeding $60 million)
  • Other economic factors including an aging population, a lack of in-migration by younger people, and a tight housing market with high rents.

The Program is designed to have a positive impact on the region’s economic challenges, simultaneously raising family incomes in the target groups, improving the regional economy, and boosting growth in the farm/food business sector, a key component targeted for growth in the region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.

The Apprenticeship Program addresses these issues through a comprehensive training and apprenticeship program that enabled motivated individuals to learn food-related skills, gain knowledge about food production, food safety, the regional food system, and the value of locally sourced food, in a classroom and kitchen laboratory setting. They are then placed in internships at local food establishments for on-the-job experience, and receive further coaching and follow-up. The program provides permanent job placement for trainees who successfully complete the program; and by solving the workforce problem of local food enterprises, it helps build a stronger local food-related economy.

The program is open to, and accepts, all age groups, ethnic groups, races and genders. We make special efforts to reach out to and recruit minorities. The geographic target is the Brattleboro laborshed, which includes all of Windham County, Vermont, and nearby portions of New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

How the program was carried out in 2015:

In the late winter and spring of 2015, we made final plans for the program components, and recruited program staff:

  • Tristan Toleno, lead instructor. Toleno, who grew up in Marlboro and graduated from Brattleboro Union High School in 1989, earned a BA degree from Wesleyan in 1993, a degree from the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier in 1996, and a MBA from Marlboro College Graduate School in 2012. He owned and operated the Riverview Cafe in Brattleboro, and now is co-owner and operator of Rigani Catered Wood-fired Pizza and Entera Catering, as well as head chef at the American Legion Post 5 in Brattleboro. In 2012, Tristan was elected to the Vermont House as a Representative from Brattleboro.
  • Vicki Friedman, job coach and instructional assistant. Vicki Friedman is the Stroll’s volunteer coordinator.
  • Bobbie Groves, job coach and instructional assistant. Groves operated a catering business from her home in Marlboro for many years.
  • Orly Munzing, the Stroll’s founder and executive director, served as program coordinator.
  • Additional program assistance came from Martin Langeveld, Stroll Marketing Director; Stacey Conn, Stroll general manager; and Erin Fagley, Stroll assistant to the executive director.

In addition, we secured commitments from the following businesses and organizations as program partners:

  • Windham Regional Career Center which made available its kitchen and classroom space for the program
  • American Legion Post 5, which also provided kitchen space and hosted the graduation ceremony.
  • Internship hosts which included the following businesses and institutions, where participants received valuable coaching, practiced a variety of culinary techniques and gained knowledge about food preparation:
    • True North Granola Company
    • O.W.L. Energy Bar
    • Thompson House Rehabilitation & Nursing Center
    • The Brattleboro Retreat
    • Against the Grain Gourmet
    • The Works Bakery Café
    • Thai Bamboo
    • Brattleboro Memorial Hospital
    • The Marina
    • Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery
    • The Porch
    • New England House
    • The Brattleboro Food Coop

Guest speakers included:

  • Sandra Ladd (Physical Therapy Associates of Brattleboro) on injury prevention
  • Karen Woodcock (Southeastern Vermont Community Action) on SEVCA’s services
  • Joanne Sprague (Key Bank), on personal finance
  • Jane Winterling (Vermont Wellness Recovery Action Plan) on nutrition
  • Becky Auger (Vermont Association of Business, Industry and Rehabilitation) and Phil Greenleaf (VocRehab Vermont) on resume writing
  • Ian Diamondstone (New Forest LLC) who presented a workshop on spices.

Field trips were taken to:

  • Grafton Village Cheese Company, which hosted a field trip on cheesemaking
  • Commonwealth Dairy, which showed students how yogurt is manufactured
  • The Scott Farm and Bunker Farm, which hosted field trips on farm production methods

The program begins with three weeks of classroom and kitchen lab work (15 days, 7 hours per day). Classroom/lab topics include:

  • Food processing skills: basic food preparation, knife safety and techniques, kitchen safety, commercial dishwashing, culinary math skills, customer etiquette, nutrition, plating and presentation, expediting, minimizing food wastage
  • Exposure to higher level concepts such as inventory and cost control, management
  • Commercial food basics: sanitation, cooking science, nutrition information, sourcing
  • Understanding the nature of the local food system and the value of maximizing use of local food
  • Job readiness skills: timeliness, cleanliness, grooming and appropriate dress, personal finance, time management, being supervised, resume building

After the classroom component, participants spend 10 weeks in internships at a one of the internship host locations, which include local restaurants, food producers, or institutional kitchens, 4 days per week, 7 hour shifts. On the 5th day of each week, they return to classroom and kitchen lab for additional knowledge and skills training, and to review as a group their work at the internship host locations. All of the participants receive training in the ServSafe Food Handler Training program. Participants are monitored by the job coaches who touched base frequently during both the classroom and internship periods.


Outcomes: We set the following goals for desired outcomes as part of planning and fundraising for the program.

(a) The training and internships in this program result in permanent paid positions. All internships are pre-arranged such that if the participant successfully completes the program, the internship automatically converts into a permanent job.
(b) The internship and subsequent employment create references for use with future potential employers.
(c) Participants gain highly desirable skill sets, increased knowledge and understanding, and improved confidence in their ability to be gainfully employed.
(d) The participants become more financially independent, by means of earning higher wages and having more permanent employment.
(e) Participants gain enough skills, knowledge and motivation to potentially enable them to launch independent business enterprises.
(f) An workforce with better food-related skills and knowledge will enable more food-related enterprises to be launched and to thrive.
(g) Farmers and other enterprises will benefit from the increased use of locally-sourced foods.
(h) Our goal is that 95% of participants who start program will complete it and receive job placements.
(i) This will be regarded as an exemplary program that can be used as a model for implementation in other communities.