Update from F2P ~ January 2012
Working Lands Enterprise Investment Bill
The Vermont Working Landscape Partnership has drafted new legislation designed to build an enterprise fund for Vermont's working landscape and create a marketing campaign for our agricultural and forest products sectors. The Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Investment Bill (S. 246/ H. 496) takes the first steps towards significant annual investment in Vermont’s working lands enterprises and contains ideas to make Vermont’s working landscape economy strong for generations to come. The bill would create a Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Investment Fund and a board to oversee that fund. These funds could be used to support infrastructure investment needs and critical business assistance identified as high priorities in the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. The bill also envisions a national marketing campaign celebrating and promoting Vermont's working lands economy, and planning tools to support enterprises related to agriculture and forest products.
The House and Senate Agriculture committees have identified this bill as a priority for consideration this year. A public hearing will be held at the Vermont Statehouse with the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee, and the Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee of the Vermont legislature. We NEED YOU to come to the statehouse to show your support for state investment in working lands enterprises. The public hearing will be held at the Vermont Statehouse, Room 11, on Wednesday, January 18, 2012, from 6:30PM-8:30PM. All are welcome to come and testify. Those who want to speak will need to sign up when they arrive, and each speaker will be given 2 minutes. Written testimony is also welcome.
For more info: http://vtworkinglands.org/
F2P Annual Report
The first annual report on progress made by the Farm to Plate Investment Program was released to the Vermont legislature earlier this week. The Farm to Plate Strategic Plan is a comprehensive road map for spurring new economic development in Vermont’s food system and ensuring that all Vermonters have access to healthy, fresh food. In order to implement the Plan, the Farm to Plate Network was created to deepen connections and collaborations across public, private, and nonprofit sectors that will work to maximize the social, technical, and financial capital critical to the Plan’s success.
It’s important to remember that we just completed the first year of a 10-year strategic plan and this report is but a snapshot of some of the progress that was made in 2011 by farms, food enterprises, and nonprofit organizations that are working to strengthen our food system. Future F2P Annual Reports will include more details on the metrics we are using to track results on the ground — such as jobs created, the number of acres under production, and new infrastructure that has come online.
Food system highlights to date include:
- Releasing the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan;
- Launching the Farm to Plate Network, and new collaborations between various state agencies and departments;
- Launching new private enterprises through targeted investment and collaboration among various funding streams including: Agency of Agriculture grant programs (Vermont Agriculture Innovation Center, Farm to School, Farm to Institution, Specialty Crop Block Grants, Jobs Bill grants);
- The deployment of over $1.26 million from the Vermont Agriculture Innovation Center, Jobs Bills, and Vermont Farm Viability Program funds—which has leveraged an additional $2.7 million in funding—to strengthen Vermont’s food system (See pages 6-11);
- The latest available information indicates that Vermont’s food system added approximately 500 private sector jobs and approximately 110 establishments since the F2P Executive Summary was released.
Read more from the 2011 Farm to Plate Annual Report.
F2P Network Update
The F2P Network is made up of many organizations, businesses, and agencies working together to implement the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. These first two to three years of the Farm to Plate Network are critical. We must attain some early successes in implementing the strategies highlighted in the F2P Plan in order to continue building momentum towards lasting change within our food system. Working Groups have already been formed and have started to coordinate their actions around six key leverage areas:
- consumer education and marketing;
- education and workforce development;
- farmland access and land use;
- aggregation and distribution;
- dairy development;
- technical assistance to producers and processors.
The purpose of the F2P Network is to coordinate action among organizations across Vermont to achieve the 33 goals outlined in the F2P Strategic Plan, and to enhance the ability of participating organizations to meet their goals. Membership in the Network is open to all farms, food enterprises, and food system related trade associations, coops, public agencies, nonprofit organizations, private funders, and community groups. F2P Network members agree to work towards the F2P’s 33 goals, share information, and participate in at least one Working Group, Task Force or Crosscutting Team.
The 2012 work plans for each of the Network’s six Working Groups are currently under development and will be linked to specific goals and strategies within the F2P Strategic Plan. In addition, each Working Group will have a series of metrics it will use to track their collective progress towards their goals. Later in 2012, project specific Task Forces will be formed around strategic action steps or topics that each Working Group identifies as a priority. Also in 2012, six Crosscutting Teams designed to increase connectivity with various stakeholder groups across the entire Network will be formed.
Steering Committee Members:
- Chuck Ross, Secretary of Agriculture
- Lawrence Miller, Secretary of Commerce
- Len Bull, Vermont Agriculture Development Board
- Stacy Burnstein, Vermont Food Funders Network
- Jane Clifford, Chair, Dairy Development Working Group
- Dan Smith, Co-Chair, Education and Workforce Development Working Group
- Ela Chapin, Chair, Technical Assistance to Producers and Processors Working Group
- Tara Kelly, Chair, Aggregation and Distribution Working Group
- Jill Arace, Co-Chair, Farmland Access and Land Use Working Group
- Cheryl King Fischer, Co-Chair, Consumer Education and Marketing Working Group
- Erica Campbell, Farm to Plate Program Director
- Ellen Kahler, VSJF Executive Director
Grand Opening of the Vermont Food Venture Center and Mad River Food Hub
Two new processing facilities for small scale producers in Vermont are officially open for business! On Friday, January 6th the Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC) in Hardwick held an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the shared-use, fully equipped, and licensed commercials kitchens that are now available for rent. VFVC, a program of the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE), offers three certified kitchens available for rent by the hour with slicers, mixers, grinders, several types of ovens, tilt skillets, blast freezers, vacuum sealers, labellers, and a variety of other equipment to process and package almost any type of food. Additionally, VFVC offers technical assistance for recipe development, business development, packaging selection, and distributor access.
At the grand opening, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross said, “The Vermont Food Venture Center is an incredible resource to help incubate and support the agricultural businesses in this region and may serve as a model for other areas within Vermont and beyond. The opportunities created here will stimulate the kind of community-based agriculture that makes Vermont special. The Governor and Agency of Agriculture believe this will help support the ongoing renaissance of agriculture in Vermont. Leadership at the federal level led by Senator Leahy coupled with state and community commitments make partnerships like the Vermont Food Venture Center successful and enrich the agricultural and community based economy of Vermont.”
Members of the public are also welcome to attend the official opening of the Mad River Food Hub on Tuesday, January 17th in Waitsfield. The Mad River Food Hub in Waitsfield is a perfect example of the kind of new business development that grew out of an identified need highlighted in the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. After studying the relevant sections of the F2P Strategic Plan (specifically Appendices C and E), local entrepreneur Robin Morris collaborated with the Mad River Localvores, Mad River Valley Planning District, local chef Joey Nagy, and many others in the community to open a 3,200 square foot shared meat and vegetable processing, storage, and distribution center at the Irasville Business Park in fall 2011. This new business employs 1.5 workers and is already serving the needs of over 12 farmers, chefs, and value-added food producers in the Mad River Valley — giving them access to a State licensed meat and vegetable processing facility, high efficiency cooler and/ or freezer for pre- and post- processing, and a loading dock and logistics support for easy pick up from Black River Produce, UNFI, Vermont Food Bank, and others.
Watch the NECN News Report of the VFVC ribbon cutting!
2012 Farm Bill Update
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy’s office provided information on the status of the 2012 Farm Bill (Senator Leahy is the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee). The current Farm Bill, adopted in 2008, will expire on September 30th of this year. A new 5-year Farm Bill must be adopted, or the current bill extended by that time. There was a flurry of activity in the fall, as the House and Senate Agriculture Committees sought to identify Farm Bill priorities for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (also referred to as the Super Committee). The final proposal agreed to by the House and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairmen included $23 billion in deficit reduction (over 10 years) through changes, cuts, and elimination of some Farm Bill programs. A relatively detailed proposal was generally agreed upon by the Chairmen of both Agriculture Committees, but it was never formally submitted once it became evident that the Super Committee would fail to act.
The expectation is that Congress will now move forward with a more conventional legislative process or ‘regular order’ of Committee hearings – a Chairman’s draft bill for Committee consideration, markup, floor debate, and hopefully a successful conference between the House and Senate leading to a final bill signed by the President. The draft from this fall that was prepared for the Super Committee is expected to be used as a starting point, and significant spending cuts will be required. If there is no good progress made toward a final bill by mid-summer, the 2008 Farm Bill must be extended until after the November elections – likely into 2013. Senator Leahy and Congressman Welch serve on their respective Agriculture Committees, and Senator Sanders is always active on agricultural issues.
Grand Opening at the Mad River Food Hub
January 17 from 11:30AM-7PM
Come celebrate the official opening of the Mad River Food Hub with Governor Shumlin, Senator Illuzzi and Representative Partridge, and a number of food producers. Refreshments will be prepared on site by our food producer customers. The Mad River Food Hub is located off Route 100 in Waitsfield behind Shaws Supermarket. For more info: www.madriverfoodhub.com
16th Annual Vermont Grazing & Livestock Conference
“Nourishing the Northeast by Educating Ourselves”
Lake Morey Inn, Fairlee
Pre-conference on Friday, January 20th with an all-day workshop intensive focused on meat pricing, production and processing with the Women's Agricultural Network, Ohio State University's Steve Moeller, and Master Butcher Cole Ward cutting a pig and a lamb. Main Conference, trade show, and kids conference on Saturday, January 21st featuring Dr. Temple Grandin. For more info: www.uvm.edu/~pasture/?Page=conference.html
78th Annual Vermont Farm Show
Champlain Valley Expo Center, Essex Junction
The 2012 Farm Show, expected to be the largest in the show’s seventy-eight year history, has relocated to the Champlain Valley Expo Center in Essex Junction. The Farm Show is Vermont’s largest agricultural showcase. For agriculture professionals, it is an opportunity to meet with vendors, preview products and machinery, attend trade association meetings, and network within the farm community. The show also holds wide appeal for the general public. From barnyard animals to John Deere tractors, there’s plenty to keep families entertained. For more info: www.vtfarmshow.com
Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers’ Association Annual Meeting
Capital Plaza Hotel, Montpelier
Join VBGA for a full day of presentations, reflections on the impacts of Irene, and an annual trade show. For more info: www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/meetings/VVBGAMontpelier12.pdf
30th Annual NOFA-VT Winter Conference
Community and Ecological Resilience: Building an Adaptable and Enduring Food System
UVM Davis Center, Burlington
NOFA-VT’s Annual Winter Conference brings together more than 1,500 organic farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, educators, chefs, policy makers and consumers for three days of workshops, keynotes, networking sessions, meals and celebration! The conference theme, “Community and Ecological Resilience: Building an Adaptable and Enduring Food System,” will address the need to adapt agriculture to be more resilient in the face of increasingly dramatic weather events and climate conditions. We hope that the conference will provide the opportunity for a broad food and farming audience to learn important skills that we can utilize on our farms and in our communities. For more info: www.nofavt.org
VT Food Safety Stakeholder Summit
Thursday March 22 from 8:30AM to 4:30PM
Lake Morey Resort, Fairlee VT
This summit is the first step toward creating a state food safety task force to improve food safety from farm to plate in Vermont. The goals of the summit are: 1) Introduce food safety stakeholders and facilitate their interaction with each other; 2) Identify regulatory, education and communication issues to be addressed by a state food safety task force; 3) Recruit members to participate in future task force meetings. Registration information wil l be available in early 2012. Please note that space for the event is limited to 100 participants, so we are aiming to have as broad of representation across all stakeholder groups as possible. For questions contact Londa Nwadike, UVM Extension Food Safety Specialist at Londa.Nwadike@uvm.edu or call (802) 223-2389 ext. 216 or (866) 860-1382 (toll free in Vermont).
The VSJF would like to thank the following funders for recently supporting the development of the Farm to Plate Network and the soon to be developed the Food Systems Atlas of Vermont: Jane’s Trust, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Kendall Foundation, and the VT Department of Education.