Cultivating Relationships

Among the many gifts Jack gave to us and the world was cultivation. Cultivation of plants and animals to provide nutritious foods. Cultivation of knowledge through his teaching at UVM and beyond. And, perhaps most importantly, cultivation of relationships – bringing together people throughout the food system to find a common path to sustainability. Jack’s work to help found the Northern Grain Growers Association is an example of this cultivation. Bringing together not only farmers but bakers, millers, and buyers that he met through his business and travels – all with the common goal of feeding people healthy foods while healing the earth.

One of Jack’s favorite crops was corn. As Anne recalled “corn made Jack tick, he loved corn – planting the sweet corn was the only way to get him out of the house this past spring”.  He saved seed for more than 30 years. He grew grains and had experimented growing traditional flint corn varieties like Calais, Garland, and Longfellow Flint. One of his greatest accomplishments was the propagation and selection of Early Riser an early season open-pollinated variety of corn that is high in beta-carotene.  Jack also grew dry beans and was especially fond of a variety called King of the Early. Although over the last few years Jack had shifted from cultivating soil to no-tillage practices his desire to protect people and the planet remained the focus.

One of his writings captures Jack’s vision, “Vermont farmers saving and planting Vermont seed corn. It’s only a dream right now.”

Expand the Dream

To come full circle, Jack would have valued working with Vermont’s indigenous people whose ancestors walked the land where Butterworks Farm sits and cultivated their own regionally adapted varieties of flint corn.

The Northern Flint Corn Consortium— a network of farmers, researchers and the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe — will help make this dream come true. The primary goal of the Northern Flint Corn Consortium is to help increase food production among Indigenous people and to help them find ways to sustain it.  Education of students, participatory learning with the public, new connections, and new seeds for those who desire them.

Funds raised for this initiative will be directed toward providing members of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe with resources for securing and producing traditional foods. Donations in honor of Jack can be made through the Northern Grain Growers Association. The donations will be presented to Chief Don Stevens and the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe in May at the celebration of life for Jack. 

If you’d like to mail your donation to NGGA, please make the check payable to NGGA or Northern Grain Growers Association and mail it to: NGGA, ATTN: Heather Darby, 278 So. Main Street, Suite 2, St. Albans, VT 05478.

If you’d like to add a personalized message to your donation, please email with you name and message.

Donations can also be made directly to Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe in support of their food security and sovereignty programs. A link to their food program, with a donate button at the bottom, can be accessed at:

As a disadvantaged population with one of the highest rates of health disparities in the State of Vermont, we rely on organizations and people like yourselves to help in uplifting our people. Since we no longer have access to our traditional lands, food insecurity and poverty has been a constant plight on our citizens. The Abenaki Land Link Project and Food Security programs aim to change that. We appreciate all of the assistance that partners can provide in that mission.

Wliwni (Thank you),

Chief Don Stevens, Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe