If you were at the South Street Seaport this past Sunday you would have seen one very unique boat parked in the water. Ceres, the product of the long-anticipated Vermont Sail Project has arrived in New York City.
The Vermont Sail Freight Project is the dream of a group of environmentally and agriculturally conscious Vermont citizens who operate off the belief that transporting fresh goods can be a sustainable endeavor. The Project believes that the way to accomplish this is through the water, a severely underutilized resource. This vision spurred them to create a sailing barge named Ceres that has carried them from Vermont to New York City, making additional stops as they sail down the river. As Ceres brings customers everything from maple syrup to fresh vegetables, she also allows the people and crew to reconnect with the water, as well as with a sense of community that can only be cultivated by such a small-scale and well-intentioned provider.
Ceres is a 39-foot long and 10-foot wide vessel, capable of carrying 12 tons of the non-perishable produce it collects along its route. Ceres was hand built for a total of only $15,000 raised from a Kickstarter campaign and at the moment is run entirely by volunteers. Along with using simple materials to lower the cost, the Project also doesn’t use refrigeration. They wanted to stick with their goal of carbon-neutral transportation, and for that reason customers will only be able to buy shelf-stable items that can survive the three-week journey.
This weekend, New York City became the end of Ceres’ fall voyage. By docking in the city, the crew has made a statement about our current methods of produce transportation. After all, Manhattan boasts many farmer’s markets and Greenmarkets, and many of us do already have access to goods transported from surrounding agricultural areas. But are there other ways of getting these goods here? Should more farmers be asking questions about alternative modes of transportation? With the success of Ceres, we have to wonder if we should be turning our heads to the water as an answer to these questions.
After the Project’s initial docking and reception at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Saturday, they joined the Sunday New Amsterdam Market at the South Street Seaport. Here, with the assistance of a young farmer’s advocacy group called Greenhorns, they sold a bounty of items amidst other food vendors and local farmers. Against the background of the sunny East River, the Project doled out fresh produce, medicinal herbs, and even handmade buttons to a crowd of eager onlookers.
Now Ceres will make the return trip, heading upriver laden with Brooklyn Roasting Company coffee to deliver to Vermont’s North East Kingdom. They’ll dock the ship for the winter, but don’t worry because they’ll be back. If you’re bummed that you missed the Project’s New York debut, keep your eyes peeled, because the Project says they are set on doing at least one voyage in 2014 and are aiming to expand. They hope to make the Vermont Sail Freight Project a true sustainable business, with long-term employees, a warehouse for storing goods, and even a fleet of ships to help them run the route regularly. Check out their website for more information or their blog to learn more about Ceres’ progress