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Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Farm to Plate Update

Update from Farm to Plate! July 11, 2011

VSJF Welcomes New F2P Program Director

VSJF is pleased to announce that Erica Campbell has joined our staff as the Farm to Plate Program Director to help lead the implementation of the strategic plan. Erica comes to VSJF with a variety of food systems experience. She most recently worked with the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick to develop a regional food system plan for the Northeast Kingdom.

We'd like to thank Kit Perkins, our outgoing F2P Program Director, for her 2 years of dedication and instrumental role in the development of the F2P strategic plan. Kit will continue in as a part-time consultant to help with presentations, grant writing, and special projects as need. A big thanks to Kit for all she's done to make the F2P plan such a huge success!

You can reach Kit Perkins at her new email at kit@vsjf.org, and Erica Campbell at farm2plate@vsjf.org.

Farm to Plate Hits the Road

Since the release of the F2P strategic plan in January, staff have conducted thirty-five presentations across the state - reaching over 1,400 people - to introduce the plan, discuss key goals and strategies, and coordinate implementation with stakeholder groups. From panel presentations, such as the Vermont Foodbank's Annual Conference, to meetings with food council or food hub groups, to Green Drinks in Burlington, the enthusiasm for implementing the F2P plan has been inspiring.  

If you'd like to schedule a presentation in your community, please contact heather@vsjf.org.

F2P Implementation: News from Around the State

Implementation of the strategic plan is underway in earnest in communities across Vermont as groups identify how their current work aligns with goals contained within the plan, or entrepreneurs analyze niches in the market, or networks begin collaborating in new ways. Far from comprehensive, a short-list of the exciting activities already in progress are listed below.

We want to hear how F2P is being implemented in your community, neighborhood, business, farm or organization! Please send an email to heather@vsjf.org with a short paragraph to be included in our next F2P News.

ACORN Wholesale Collaborative Final Report -- The Addison County Relocalization Network has recently released the ACORN Wholesale Collaborative (AWC) Final Report. The AWC conducted a planning study to determine the feasibility and economic viability of a low-cost, online wholesale brokerage and delivery service linking Addison County produce growers with institutional buyers. While some positive crop matches were identified (e.g., carrots, tomatoes, and squash), the study concluded that there is not sufficient volume at this time to launch a wholesale brokerage service in Addison County. However, there are several opportunities to grow this demand. These include increasing seasonal purchases, regional storage and aggregation facilities to lower costs, and matchmaking events.  

Regional Food System Plan for Vermont's Northeast Kingdom is Published -- The Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) has just released a food system plan for the Northeast Kingdom. Conducted for Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA), the region's planning commission and economic development corporation, the plan lays out goals and strategies to further develop its food system. This regional report, funded by a U.S. Department of Labor Regional Innovation Grant, is closely aligned with the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan, and builds on the unique strengths of the three-county region. The CAE is working with NVDA, VSJF, and several other NEK-based organizations to build a network to implement the NEK strategies. Download the executive summary or full plan at www.nvda.net, or contact Erica Campbell at erica@hardwickagriculture.org.

Farm Share Cooking at Fletcher Allen Health Care -- Fletcher Allen Health Care has partnered with Irving Fuel of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), and the Intervale Food Hub on a new program that provides people with limited incomes with subsidized farm shares from a local CSA with cooking classes on the hospital's green roof pavilion. On Wednesdays from June 8th to October 5th program participants meet up for the cooking class and to take home their farm shares which include a steady supply of vegetables and other local food products.   

Meat Processing Committee -- Agency of Agriculture, NOFA-VT, UVM Extension, the Castanea Foundation, VSJF, VHCB, and VEDA representatives are collaborating on a new initiative to strengthen existing, federally inspected slaughter and meat processing facilities in the state. Funded in part by the VT Agriculture Innovation Center, the Committee's efforts are focused on tackling a number of the high priority, meat related strategies in the F2P Plan.  A number of learning tours of meat processing facilities have been planned and Nancy Wasserman of Sleeping Lion Associates has been retained to analyze the infrastructure and financial needs that existing facilities have so that individualized assistance can then be offered to the owners of these facilities over the coming year. Meetings between livestock producers and meat processors are also in the works.

Regional Farm to Institution in New England (FINE) Project -- A collaboration of several organizations throughout the region has secured $200,000 from the John Merck Foundation. Vermont FEED is the Northeast regional lead for the National Farm to School Network and is playing a lead in the coordination of the six-state effort to bring more regionally produced foods into institutional food service programs. With the John Merck funding, the FINE project has now secured $500,000 in funding, half way to the project goal of $1 million. For more information, contact FINE coordinator Peter Allison at peterallisonvt@gmail.com

F2P Implementation Grants Awarded

VSJF has awarded $40,000 in grant funding to five food systems organizations as part of the Farm to Plate Initiative. Funding was made available as part of the Jobs Bill in 2010 (Act 78), which provided implementation funding for the Farm to Plate Strategic Planning process. We thank Senator Vince Illuzzi (R-Orleans), one of the principal authors of the 2010 Jobs Bill, for supporting this implementation funding. The awards will be used to strengthen Vermont's growing, value-added food production infrastructure, as well as develop new products for local and regional markets. 

Funded projects include the following:

  • Highfields Center for Composting (Hardwick) -- Grant Award: $12,500. Highfields Center for Composting will purchase a Mobile Compost Screener which will be made available to composters around the state at a reasonable price. Screeners remove clumps, bones, rocks and any undesirable materials that may have entered the material, making it a more desirable product for farmers, gardeners and landscapers and thus commanding a higher price in the market.
  • Intervale Center (Burlington) -- Grant Award: $10,000. The Intervale Center will use these funds to support the reconstruction of the 1920s era Dairy Barn as the future home of the rapidly expanding Intervale Food Hub -- a multi-farm CSA and local food storage, aggregation and distribution hub.  This facility will house 8,040 cubic feet of walk-in cooler space, 1,000 sq. ft. of packing space, 1,000 sq. ft. of office and conference space, a public bathroom facility and wash sinks.  
  • Mad River Valley Food Hub (Waitsfield) -- Grant Award: $7,500. Mad River Food Hub, L3Cis a new storage, food processing and distribution facility supporting local food producers in the Mad River Valley.  The new facility will contain two meat processing rooms licensed by the Agency of Agriculture Vermont Meat Inspection Service and one vegetable kitchen constructed to USDA standards, and will be available for rent on an 8+ hour day basis by chefs, farmers and other food entrepreneurs.
  • Center for an Agricultural Economy (Hardwick) -- Grant Award: $5,000. Housed at the Food Venture Center in Hardwick, the CAE will purchase a 12'x8'x10' walk-in cooler and a comparably sized walk-in freezer to store fruits and vegetables pre- and post-processing for area farmers who want to sell lightly-processed food to schools, institutions, and food cooperatives in Vermont.
  • LACE (Local Agricultural Community Exchange) (Barre) -- Grant Award: $5,000. The staff and Board of LACE will use these funds to undergo strategic reorganizations which will include re-locating their existing programs to leased space, strengthening the sustainability of their programs which provide job training in food preparation through their F.O.O.D. program to low-income Vermonters, and putting their organization on sound financial footing for the future. Opportunities to further develop a multi-farm sourced frozen vegetable and vegetable-meat based product line for sale at area farmers' markets and food coops will be explored.

Farm Viability Enhancement Program Grants Awarded   

The Vermont Farm Viability Program awarded $88,520 in grants to ten businesses that process, market, store, or distribute Vermont farm products such as meat, fruit and vegetables.

  • Vermont Salumi (Plainfield) -- Grant Award: $9,250
  • Putney Mountain Winery (Putney) -- Grant Award: $5,825
  • Vermont Refrigerated Storage (Shoreham) -- Grant Award: $16,250
  • Royal Butcher (Randloph) -- Grant Award: $10,000
  • Westminster Meats (Westminster) -- Grant Award: $10,995
  • Mad River Food Hub (Waitsfield) -- Grant Award: $10,000
  • Parmelee Farm Mobile Unit (Randolph Center) -- Grant Award: $5,000
  • Sharon Beef (Sharon) -- Grant Award: $2,300
  • Grow Compost (Moretown) -- Grant Award: $10,000
  • Holton Farms (Westminster) -- Grant Award: $8,900

For more info: http://www.vhcb.org/viability.html#agbiz

Online Marketplaces Take Off in Vermont

Several online local food marketplaces are emerging throughout the state. University of Vermont Extension's local food coordinator Hans Estrin has been assisting groups with the logistic, capacity building, and technical assistance needed to develop online food distribution platforms. Utilizing the Harvest to Market web-based software, Hans has worked extensively with Windham Farm and Food Network, as well as provided consulting services for the following organizations:

  • Mad River Valley Localvores - The Mad River Food Hub is building a new food processing incubator facility in Waitsfied, as well as an aggregation and distribution center that includes online market capabilities
  • St. Johnsbury Area Local Food Alliance (St. J ALFA) - This local food group is developing an online farmers' market in Caledonia County to connect farmers with additional direct sales opportunities
  • Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) - RAFFL's Green Mountain Food Hubs is developing an online  is developing an online market
  • Food Works at Two Rivers Center - The established Farm to Table program that connects local farmers with institutional and other market outlets is moving toward an online platform this summer
  • Wilmington area - A multi-farm effort in the Wilmington area is seeking to aggregate local food to sell through the Harvest to Market platform

For more information contact Hans Estrin, hans.estrin@uvm.edu.


Online Market Profile: Yourfarmstand.com

yourfarmstand.comYourfarmstand.com is a new way for local farmers and producers to sell directly to the public. Farmers and buyers can sign up for free and immediately list and browse offerings in a local market. Once a week at midnight on “market day,” sales are automatically tallied, and farmers are informed via email what they have sold during the past week. Later on that day, they deliver their produce to the drop off location where it is consolidated according to customer, and customers then come to pick up their bags containing produce from different local farmers. Currently, Yourfarmstand.com operates in Charlotte, Vergennes, Fairfield, Brandon, and Swanton.

The first market opened in Charlotte in July 2010. Having surveyed Charlotte customers, Yourfarmstand.com found more than half do not participate in CSAs or farmers’ markets, the traditional outlets for local produce. Since the launch over 60 producers have listed on the site in four markets, and over 300 households, have signed up. This season, Yourfarmstand.com is setting up new markets in four additional towns. As demand for local produce grows, Yourfarmstand.com is becoming a strong link in the development of local markets and the purchases of local produce throughout Vermont.

For more info: http://www.yourfarmstand.com


Update about F2P Strategic Plan Sections

In addition to grant-making activity and public presentations, F2P staff have been diligently working to complete several sections of the full 10-year strategic plan and update the Executive Summary for minor edits and revisions.  

The Farm Inputs section covers land access and availability, soil, farm assets and debt, animal feed, seed, water, energy, and labor. Did you know that the average size of VT farms is 177 acres, but 70% of farms are smaller than that? Or that water for livestock (including dairy animals) made up about 1% (4.2 million gallons per day) of total daily withdrawals?  

Download these new sections of the plan or explore previously published sections on our website: http://www.vsjf.org/project-details/5/farm-to-plate-initiative.

Coming soon: Nutrient Management, Dairy Appendix, and Workforce Development.

Save the Date! Upcoming Events 

County Agricultural Fairs and Field Days

There are tons of fairs and field days all summer long, from the Connecticut Valley Fair, to the Addison County Fair, to the Vermont State Fair, and many in between - so be sure to celebrate Vermont's agricultural past and enjoy some fun at a fair this summer!  For a full list of Vermont fairs and field days, visit the VT Agency of Agriculture's website: www.vermontagriculture.com/buylocal/visit/fairs.html  

Business Opportunity at Pete and Gerry's Eggs

Farmers from Vermont and New Hampshire are invited to a meeting on July 15 at 10am at the University of Vermont Extension Office in St. Johnsbury to learn about a business opportunity with Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs. Representatives from Pete and Jerry's Eggs will discuss the potential business opportunity with time for questions, followed by a tour at the egg facility in Monroe, NH and visit a nearby farm that is converting a free stall dairy barn into an egg laying facility.

On-Farm Workshops with RAFFL and NOFA-VT

This summer, RAFFL is again teaming up with NOFA-VT to bring you six on-farm workshops on topics and skills important to farm success. These workshops are relevant and engaging for any commercial grower - from apprentices and folks just starting up to established farmers.

  • On-farm Poultry Slaughter, 7/13, West Rutland
  • Basic Cover Crop Strategies for Soil Health and Seed Production & NOFAvore Social, 7/27, Shaftsbury
  • Introduction to Starting a Commercial Goat Dairy, 8/6, West Pawlet
  • Worry-Less Winter Production (including a potluck picnic), 8/22, Middle Granville, NY
  • Equipment and tools for small scale vegetable production, 9/7, Benson

For more info: http://raffl.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/raffls-summer-workshop-series-announced-mark-your-calendars/  

Visit NOFA's Summer Workshop Series website for the full list of workshops - over 30 across the state!  http://nofavt.org/annual-events/summer-workshops 

NOFA Summer Conference

The NOFA Summer Conference will be on August 12-14 in Amherst, MA. This year's conference is partnering with Northeast Animal Powered Field Days and, as usual, will be full of great workshops, good food, and lots of fun. Choose from over 225 workshops on organic farming, gardening and land care, draft animals in farming and forestry, homesteading, sustainability, nutrition, food politics, activism, and much, much more. The 2011 Summer Conference featured keynoters are Eric Toensmeier and Ignacio Chapela. For more info: www.nofasummerconference.org 

Beyond Milk: Raw Dairy Processing

Rural Vermont's raw dairy classes return over the months of July and August. Attend a class in your area taught by farmers who sell raw cow and goat milk and are welcoming new customers in Newbury, Barnard, Randolph, and Bethel.

  • Chevre with Goats' Milk, 7/14, Newbury
  • Butter, Yogurt, Whipped Cream, and Buttermilk Scones, 7/23, Barnard
  • Kefir, Ricotta, and Soft Serve Ice Cream with Goats' Milk, 7/28, Randolph
  • Butter, Fromage Blanc & Ricotta, 8/7, Bethel
  • Butter, Yogurt, Whipped Cream, and Buttermilk Scones, 8/13, Barnard
  • Ice Cream, Salted Caramel Sauce, & Ricotta with Katie Rumley, 8/17, Shelburne

For more info: www.ruralvermont.org  

2nd Annual Northeast USA Rice Conference

Saturday, August 6th
Akaogi Farm, Westminster West

The morning session will focus on wildlife conservation issues associated with rice paddy agriculture. Three speakers will talk about various aspects of the issue and the session will end with a roundtable discussion to develop a wildlife research plan. The afternoon session will focus on general rice agriculture issues and what has been learned from research and experiences around the world and how that might apply to the Northeast USA climate. For more info: www.ricenortheasternus.org 

Kingdom Farm & Food Days -- Save the Date!  

The Center for an Agricultural Economy, along with High Mowing Organic Seeds, and the New England Culinary Institute (NECI), is hosting the annual Kingdom Farm & Food Days, August 20 - 21.  This free event will offer tours of participating area farms, workshops at the High Mowing Organic Seeds Trials Garden and serve an all-local meal prepared by NECI students. For more info or to volunteer, contact: center@hardwickagriculture.org 

Scaling Up: Producing and Processing for the Larger Regional Market

Saturday, September 10th
Southeastern Vermont Community Action, Westminster

Interested in selling meat to institutions and other large-scale buyers throughout the New England region? The New England state departments of agriculture are collaborating with the Northeast Farm-to-School Network and Healthcare without Harm on a marketing plan for increasing sales of regionally-produced beef to institutions. The research team, led by Rose Wilson, will give a presentation of the results and propose some steps we can take to increase beef sales to large-scale regional consumers. Then we'll head down the street to Westminster Meats, Vermont's newest slaughter facility, for lunch and a tour. This will be a great opportunity to make connections from across New England. For more info: http://vtmeat.blogspot.com/p/september-10-scaling-up-producing.html 

4th Annual Tour de Farms

Sunday, September 18th
Shoreham Green, Addison County, VT

The Tour de Farms is an annual event and collaboration among Rural Vermont, the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition, and the Addison County Relocalization Network. Choose between 30, 25, and 10 mile routes and take a leisurely bike ride that includes sampling at various farm stops along the way. For more info: www.ruralvermont.org/events/tdf

VSJF Flexible Capital Fund Open for Business     

First-of-Its-Kind Program Helps Value Added Agriculture Businesses with Flexible Capital

The VSJF Flexible Capital Fund, L3C. is up and running with the first business-lending program in Vermont focused on royalty financing for growth stage, value added agriculture and natural resource businesses.  One of only two such investment-lending programs of its scale in New England, the Flex Fund was recently awarded licensed lender status with the State of Vermont.  Business owners in value added agriculture who can't find the right match of capital to grow their businesses now have one more option available to them -a flexible, higher-risk loan that doesn't take an ownership position and won't force an exit strategy in order to pay back the investor.  If you're a growing value-added ag business closing in on $1.0 million or more in sales, and you're experiencing a financing gap but your business has strong margins and is selling into a growing market, the Flex Fund may be a fit for you with flexible capital and access to peer mentoring services.  

For more information, contact Janice St. Onge, President at flexfund@vsjf.org or (802) 828-0398.

Food System Job Announcements & Training Opportunities:

Sales & Marketing Manager at VT Soy 

The Sales and Marketing Manager is responsible for the successful presentation of our product line to current and prospective customers; primary objective to grow Vermont Soy's sales volume. Looking for a highly motivated individual who is committed to the future success of Vermont Soy.  For more info: Click HERE

Green Mountain Farm-to-School Program Director  

Green Mountain Farm-to-School seeks a dynamic, mission-driven food systems professional with strong communication and organization skills to support the growth of our organization. The primary responsibilities of the Farm-to-School Program Director will be to develop, manage, grow, present, and evaluate GMFTS' farm-to-school programs and provide general operational and administrative support. For more info: Click HERE

Herdsperson for Pinello Family Farm in Rutland     

Main role would be to primarily manage the milking herd -- a 240 cow free/tie stall operation of mainly Holstein cows. Tasks include some feeding, preventative care and treatment of transition and fresh cows, manage and organize herd reproduction, milking, and assist with all other aspects of the business. Must have positive attitude, be a good team player, and reliable. Pay is negotiable based on skills and experience. For more info: Contact: Frank at pinellofarm@gmail.com

Resources:

UVM Extension Food Safety Fact Sheets