In a sea of grass at the Brookbound Farm in Vergennes, Erik Andrus has a dream to hit the open water.
Andrus and four volunteers are building a 39-foot canal barge, called Ceres, to take Vermont goods to New York City. It's a journey back in time, when food was delivered by boat.
"This is a project about regional food systems energy and the future of our regional landscape," said Andrus of the Vermont Sail Freight Project.
Andrus has raised more than $15,000 to build the simple flat-bottom, sail-powered boat. It will carry up to 12 tons of nonperishables-- like beans, maple syrup, beets and rice-- 300 miles. It's a new market for Vermont farmers looking to sell direct to customers.
"Ideally the majority will be sold directly to consumers," Andrus said.
The journey there will take 10 days from the Champlain Valley to the Hudson at Fort Edward, down through Albany, eventually docking in New York City.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Why a boat?
Erik Andrus: Well, because... vernacular watercraft basic flat-bottom vessels moved by wind are a time-proven method of moving cargo throughout the region.
Andrus admits a semi-truck is faster, but he says this slower approach is better. It doesn't use fossil fuels, relying only on wind. He also thinks his floating farmers market will draw people in for the unique experience.
"What's the rush? Why do these things have to thunder down the interstate on rubber an extraordinary inefficient way?" Andrus asked.
Andrus says although some people think the idea is crazy, 150 years ago there was nothing extraordinary about it.
"There's an element of creativity and it's outside of the box, but there's nothing crazy going on here. We're a bunch of farmers building a simple boat taking cargo down the river," Andrus said.
The maiden voyage is scheduled for early July. And in case you're wondering-- no, the captain and crew will not be dressing up in period clothes.
"This is not a historic re-enactment," Andrus said. "This is the future."
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