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Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Update from F2P ~ April 2012

F2P Strategies in Action 

F2P LogoMost of the 60 highest priority strategies listed in the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan are already underway – either by an existing organization within the Farm to Plate Network or by a F2P Network Working Group or Task Force. Here are a few examples of action that is underway:

  • Land Use Mapping: The F2P Plan recognized the need for a statewide LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) mapping system. After a few email conversations with a number of interested organizations in the state, “Team LiDAR” has emerged with the Vermont Center for Geographic Information serving as the communications hub. Team members are actively identifying funding sources that can be mobilized over the next few months to enable LiDAR imaging this fall when fly-overs are planned for certain parts of the state. The total project cost is estimated at $2.5 million – which would enable statewide coverage of this high-tech imaging technology. Various regional planning commissions, the Lake Champlain Basin Program, Ecosystem Restoration Program, VTrans, US Geological Survey, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Green Mountain National Forest are just some of the partners involved in this important project.

    Why does this matter? Once completed, LiDAR will be useful for a variety of purposes including identifying prime agricultural soils not currently in production for new farmers looking for available land, informing critical watershed protection efforts, identifying roof tops best suited for solar PV systems, floodplain planning efforts, and more. Connects with F2P Goals: 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 26.
  • Goat Dairy Expansion: A new large goat farm will be located in Randolph. The project is spearheaded by Vermont Creamery, the Castanea Foundation, and the High Meadows Fund. The milk will be used at Vermont Creamery, which has faced challenges sourcing enough Vermont-produced goat milk for its award winning dairy goat cheese products. The farm will also collaborate with Vermont Technical College to provide educational opportunities, and will also offer technical assistance and improved goat genetics to dairies around the state.

    Why does this matter? Vermont goat cheeses are winning awards around the country. Vermont Creamery, a fast growing company with 44 employees, wants to purchase as much goats milk to supply its cheese making operation from Vermont goat dairies as it can get. One of the obstacles identified in the F2P planning process was the need for better goat genetics and the need for 10 additional goat dairies at a much larger scale than typically exists here – ideally 10 – 600 head goat farms (equivalent to a 200 head cow dairy). This new project will accomplish three important needs -– to supply more Vermont made goats milk to Vermont Creamery, serve as a demonstration farm for how to economically and environmentally managing a large dairy operation, and will focus on improving overall goat genetics available to smaller goat dairies around the state. Connects with F2P Goals: 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, and 28.
  • Skilled Meat Cutters: To increase the amount of skilled meat cutters in Vermont, Hannaford Career Center and Vermont Technical Center are teaming up to provide a meat processing training program for adults. In partnership with local slaughter and meat processing facilities which will serve as hands-on training sites, Hannaford Career Center will offer a two-year certification program that will include a second year apprenticeship. Vermont Tech plans to develop coursework leading to an associate’s degree. $25,000 in funding for this initiative was made possible from the 2011 Jobs Bill and was awarded through a competitive grant process by the VAAFM.

    Why does this matter? In Appendix E of the F2P plan, the lack of skilled meat cutters in the state was identified as a major problem, and would continue to create a bottleneck at meat processing facilities if not addressed quickly. Given the growing consumer interest in locally raised meat and the increasing number of animals being raised for that purpose, training more meat cutters in the state is a critical need. Connects with F2P Goals: 1, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 21, and 23. 

Regional Spotlight: The Northeast Kingdom

Each month, we’ll highlight Farm to Plate related activities in a different region of the state. If you’d like to have your region’s activities highlighted, please email us at farm2plate@vsjf.org.

The Northeast Kingdom has lots of exciting food systems news this month. Here’s but a small sampling of projects underway.

Burke Farm

Burke Mountain ski resort is teaming up with Sterling College to develop the Burke Farm – a first of its kind community farm at a mountain resort. The land, owned by the Burke Mountain Company, had once been slated for a golf course, but now will be used to provide fresh, local food for the mountain’s restaurants, while also connecting the resort to the renaissance of community agriculture. This summer, a select group of Sterling College students enrolled in a Farm Design class will create plans for a diversified farm on 200 acres of pastureland near the base of Burke Mountain. Sterling College welcomes community members who are interested in getting involved with the Burke Farm Design project, or enrolling in other summer semester classes. Contact Tim Patterson for more information: tpatterson@sterlingcollege.edu

Green Mountain Mobile Produce Market

Green Mountain Farm to School recently received federal funds to build a mobile farmers market that will deliver fresh food to senior meal sites, low-income housing sites, and community centers throughout Essex and Orleans counties. The “Lunchbox,” a step van equipped with refrigeration and a commercial kitchen, will be packed with the freshest food from over a dozen local farms and bring a pop-up farmers' market to low-income housing sites and community centers in four designated “food deserts” in the Northeast Kingdom. They will also establish a matching gift program that offsets the premium of local food for shoppers with the greatest need. You can help by donating to the Green Mountain Food Access Fund -– every $10 you give will make healthy, local food accessible to two people for one week.

Newport: Fresh by Nature

Newport has undertaken a major agriculture and culinary tourism campaign. These efforts, spearheaded by the Newport Renaissance Corporation, aim to connect consumers with growers and product makers from the region. The Fresh by Nature campaign includes farm tours and “trails,” menu logos and table top displays highlighting local producers, and marketing and educational materials. To learn more, visit Fresh by Nature.

Northeast Kingdom Farm & Food Summit

The second annual NEK Farm & Food Summit will be held this year at Jay Peak Resort on Saturday, April 14th. This free event, organized by the Northeast Kingdom Travel and Tourism Association and the Center for an Agriculture Economy, includes 16 workshops, a local foods lunch, and a tasting with NEK producers and food businesses. Morning speakers include Secretary Chuck Ross and Senator Vince Illuzzi. During Lunch, Erica Campbell will present an update on the implementation progress of the NEK Food System Plan, highlighting the notable accomplishments of the region. This popular event has already sold out. To be added to the waiting list, please contact assist@travelthekingdom.com

Legislative Updates

Working Lands Enterprise Bill Update

The Working Lands bill (H.496) is making great progress. Last week, the Vermont House of Representatives passed the bill with a strong non-partisan vote of 131-5. The bill as passed includes $2 million in funding for the first year of the proposed Working Lands Enterprise Fund. Now the work in the Senate will start in earnest. You can read the VPR news story about the bill’s passing HERE. If the WLEB makes it through the Senate with funding intact, this will be a significant new source of funding for a wide variety of food system and forestry related infrastructure projects. Connects to F2P Goals 27, 28 and 31.

Vermont Right to Know Genetically Modified Foods Act

If passed, H.722 bill would require labeling of food containing genetically modified ingredients. The House Agriculture Committee has scheduled a public hearing at the Statehouse TONIGHT, April 12th at 6:30pm so that Vermonters can voice their opinions on H.722. The Monsanto Corporation raised constitutional concerns during a House legislative committee hearing on the bill. Read the article HERE. This effort is a collaboration between NOFA-VT, Rural Vermont, and VPIRG.

Mutual Benefit Corporations

The Mutual Benefits Corporation bill (H.21) passed the House easily during the 2011 session thanks to Representative Lynn Dickinson and the Commerce Committee. After a review by the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate passed it. It's now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature. The bill will provide another option in the ways available to structure a corporation. For those interested in starting a company (or transforming an existing company) which functions like a cooperative but can accept equity investments from non-producers members (non-voting shares), this type of entity may be worth looking into! Read the bill HERE. Note: this was one of the 60 High Priority Strategies listed in the F2P Strategic Plan. Connects to F2P Goal 30.

Expand Composting

On March 2, 2012, the Vermont House of Representatives passed H.485, a bill to establish universal recycling of solid waste. This bill establishes new timetables for the recycling of certain materials, and includes a mandatory organics recycling component. Organic wastes would be phased in, and by 2020 all organics would be required to be recycled for composting or other purposes. It is now being considered in the Senate. Contact info@compostingvermont.org for more info. Note: this was one of the 60 High Priority Strategies listed in the F2P Strategic Plan. Connects to F2P Goal 17.

Driver’s Licenses for Migrant Workers

The Vermont Senate passed S.238 last week, sending it back to the House. The bill authorizes a study of issuing state IDs or drivers’ licenses to Vermont residents regardless of their immigration status. The study would explore questions such as whether granting licenses to migrant workers would violate federal law; would issuing licenses increase the risk of deportation; and would migrant workers need to pass written or road tests to get licenses even if they had licenses in their home countries. Listen to a Vermont Edition on the topic. You can also read more about the economic impact of migrant workers to Vermont's dairy industry in Appendix B of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan.

21st Century Food Systems – Technology Update

Farm to Plate Graphs and Tables Now Available

In an effort to make all of the Farm to Plate related data and resources available to all, we’ve recently uploaded the tables, graphs, figures, and maps from published chapters of the F2P plan. So if you are writing a report or a grant application or giving a Powerpoint presentation and want to include useful data to help make your point, just visit the F2P figures and tables webpage to download these farm to plate visuals. And don’t forget that the food system diagram, complete with job and establishment numbers is also available on our site. As we complete the other sections of the Plan, we’ll be adding to the figures and tables page as well. Attributions of source are always appreciated.

DigIn Vermont Website Launched

DigInVT.com, a project of the Vermont Agriculture and Culinary Tourism Council, is a portal to Vermont's agriculture and culinary experiences that are open to the public. The Council consists of representatives from agriculture, culinary, and tourism organizations from the state of Vermont who are committed to promoting and preserving Vermont’s working landscape. The purpose of the Council is to strengthen and support Vermont’s food and farm communities. They have chosen DigInVT as their first collaborative project because they believe that in order to support and strengthen Vermont’s food and farm communities both visitors and Vermonters alike must be aware of the agriculture and food experiences available to them. For more info: DigInVT.com.

Environmental Public Health Tracking Web Portal

The Vermont Department of Health launched a new online resource that brings environmental and public health data together in one place. The Environmental Public Health Tracking portal is designed to help policymakers, health professionals, researchers, students, residents and anyone who is interested explore questions about links between our environment and health. To date, the portal contains searchable data and information about the state’s air quality, asthma hospitalizations, birth defects, cancer, carbon monoxide poisoning, drinking water, heart attacks, lead poisoning and reproductive health. As part of the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, Vermont’s portal also links to national data. For more info: Environmental Public Health Tracking.

Three Revolutions Online Platform

A new online platform for strengthening the food system is reaching the final stages. Three Revolutions, based in Vermont, is the only crowd-funding platform in the world wholly dedicated to helping farmers and food entrepreneurs raise capital directly from their supporters. The developers are gearing up for a spring launch and are reaching out to farmers, food entrepreneurs, educators, innovators, artisans and leaders around the region to recruit inaugural projects. For more info visit: Three Revolutions

On the Horizon: ViewBoost Mobile Tourism Application

ViewBoost, a Vermont startup company, is developing a mobile tourism application in partnership with the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College. This application is a real-time geo-specific, digital concierge system designed to enhance the rural travel experience for tourists in Vermont and beyond. The ViewBoost application for mobile devices (iPads and iPhones initially) will connect people, places, events, and businesses, enabling travelers to see their route, destination, and recommended points of interest along the way, all of which can be filtered depending on personal interests. With Facebook login capabilities, users will be able to view comments and ratings that will heighten their ability to explore a region from perspective of a local person. The partnership was launched with the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College. This tourism application uses Vermont as its model but will eventually expand to other markets. It is currently in its early phases and will be produced this year, with a release in the spring of 2013.

Vermonter Poll – Local Foods

This year, VSJF contracted with UVM’s Center for Rural Studies to ask survey questions in the Vermonter Poll about local food consumption. There were 699 responses with a margin of error of plus or minus 4%, with a confidence interval of 95%.

According to the poll, there are a variety of products that Vermonters would like to purchase locally but cannot easily access. The top responses were:

  1. Fruits (peaches, berries, etc.)
  2. Meat (pork, fish, organic meat)
  3. Grains (wheat, oats, etc.)
  4. Vegetables (broccoli, corn, herbs, etc.)

The poll found that most Vermonters already buy local food from farmers markets, CSAs, or farm stands already. In fact, eighty-four percent (84%) of Vermonters reportedly had purchased from a farmers’ market in the past year; 29% had purchased through a CSA; and 86% had purchased food from a farm stand or in some other direct way from a farmer.

Food System Resources

Guide to Financing the Community Supported Farm

The legal, accounting, environmental and social ramifications involved in alternative farm capitalization arrangements can be complicated for all involved … but the potential for financial returns, community development, and civic engagement is great. The Guide to Financing the Community Supported Farm looks at these elements, and more. Developed by UVM Extension's Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the illustrated guide was informed by experienced farmers and knowledgeable legal and financial professionals, and provides details about such mechanisms as the promissory note, the owner-financed land sale, equity financing, share leases, and other tools that Vermont agricultural businesses can use to partner with community members to establish and grow their operations. 

Guide to Starting a Commercial Goat Dairy

Turning a passion into a viable business is a line-in-the-sand decision, and a new book by Northeast SARE Farmer Grant Specialist Carol Delaney, A Guide to Starting a Commercial Goat Dairy, covers what farmers should consider when planning a goat dairy startup. It also fills a gap—there are many periodicals and books with information about cow dairying, and this adds some needed weight on the small ruminant side of the scale. 

Apply Now for Breakthrough Leaders Program for Sustainable Food Systems

In the summer of 2012, thirty emerging leaders from various countries will gather together to build their skills as innovative change makers. Through a 2 week-long program, of which one week is on campus in Burlington, Vermont and the rest online, the program will expand participants capacity to recognize and disrupt, and create solutions for our broken food system. The online course will start June 18, 2012, followed by a one week residential learning experience June 24-29, 2012. For more info: www.learn.uvm.edu/foodleaders

Food System Funding Opportunities

Specialty Crop Block Grants

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is now accepting proposals for the 2012 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Approximately $200,000 is available during this funding cycle. These grant funds are for the sole purpose of enhancing the competitiveness of Vermont-grown Specialty Crops, and will be distributed through a competitive review process. The deadline for the full proposal is April 27. 

2012 Business Plan Competition

Vermont Technical College is pleased to announce its 2012 Business Plan Competition for food and farm related businesses. The competition is open to residents and students in Washington, Orange, and Windsor Counties. This year's competition will offer prizes totaling $22,250 for winners and runners-up. 

Food System Job Opportunities

Green Mountain Farm-to-School has two AmeriCorps job openings:

The Farm-to-School Coordinator will work with school staff to develop, implement and evaluate Farm to School program activities such as taste tests, farm field trips, nutrition education, and more. The Farm-to-School Coordinators also work at the school district level to coordinate local food purchasing, provide professional development, and disseminate best practices. Start date: August 2012.

The Nutrition and Agriculture Educator will develop, grow, and deliver GMFTS' educational programs including school gardening, taste tests, farm field trips and in-class workshops. Start date: August 2012.

Complete job descriptions are available at http://greenmountainfarmtoschool.org/employment.php
To apply, please submit a resume and cover letter to jobs@gmfts.org.

Upcoming Food System Events

Flavors of the Valley 2012

Sunday, April 15 from 11AM-3PM
Hartford High School, White River Junction

Sample delicious local foods and celebrate spring at Vital Communities’ 11th annual Flavors of the Valley, the greater Upper Valley’s premier tasting, informational, and buying event for locally grown foods. Over 50 farms, restaurants, grocers, and non-profit organizations will offer samples and sell a range of local products including meats and poultry, produce, sweets, dairy, and prepared foods. To help reduce waste, attendees are encouraged to bring their own small plate, fork, and cup. For more info: www.vitalcommunities.org

Food Matters: A Clinical Education and Advocacy Program What Clinicians Need to Know About Our Food System to Help Ensure Healthy Pregnancies, Healthy Families and a Healthy Planet

Wednesday, April 25 from 8-9AM
Davis Auditorium, Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington, VT

What we eat profoundly impacts the health of individuals, our communities, and the environment. Obesity, diabetes, malnutrition, childhood cancer and other chronic diseases are the costly consequences of our current consumption patterns, both in terms of human well-being and healthcare expenditures. The impact of our food system on human health is not adequately addressed within medical, post-graduate medical, dietetics, and nursing school curricula. There remains a great need for advocacy and clinical practice improvement based in the science of food system-human health interactions.

The Food Matters program is a comprehensive package to encourage hospitals and healthcare professionals to become leaders and advocates for a food system that promotes public and environmental health. Developed by: Health Care Without Harm; Jointly Supported by: Health Care Without Harm, Fletcher Allen Health Care, Vermont Children’s Hospital Quality Program, Departments of Pediatrics and Family Medicine, UVM College of Medicine. For more info: www.healthyfoodinhealthcare.org.

Vermont Foodbank's 2012 Hunger Conference: Impact Through Innovation

Tuesday, May 8 from 7:30AM to 4:30PM
Sheraton Conference Center, Burlington

This annual conference is one of New England’s best resources for information on the charitable food system and the issue of hunger. Attend the conference to better understand hunger, poverty and the charitable food system in Vermont; develop pro-active strategies to better affect social change; gain insight that will powerfully impact your work; and share best practices with your peers. For more info: Vermont Foodbank

2nd Annual Slow Living Summit

Thursday May 30 – Friday, June 1
Brattleboro, VT

In scheduled as well as open space sessions organized into three major themes —Slow Economics, Slow Communities and Slow Policies — we’ll examine sustainable, resilient approaches to food, energy, money, health care, relationships – and the impact that catastrophic weather may have on all of them. The Slow Living Summit is a unique, flexible gathering designed to foster cross-sector solutions for high-quality sustainable living — solutions for our planet in which common good is just as important as private gain. In contrast to the typical convention-center conference, the Slow Living Summit’s sessions take place in various locations in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont with the town’s historic and funky Main Street serving as the concourse when moving between sessions. And the Summit happens just before the world-famous Strolling of the Heifers weekend — stay in town for the Stroll, an agriculturally-themed parade featuring scores of heifer calves, followed by the Live Green Expo, on Saturday June 2. For more info: Slow Living Summit

The Necessary (r)Evolution for Sustainable Food Systems Conference

Thursday, June 28 from 1PM to 6:30PM
The Royal Tyler Theater, UVM, Burlington
Reception following the event with light snacks/appetizers

Influential thinkers and positive change makers will exchange their best ideas to inspire, focus, and strengthen individual and collective action for a sustainable food system. This one day event will shine a spotlight on and amplify the most important ideas, initiatives, and voices for the necessary food systems revolution. The goal is to connect people across disciplines around the urgent issue of our broken food system and inspire people to take their place in the necessary revolution. Speakers will take the stage,give their 10-15 minute talk (in a TEDx like style). For more info: UVM Food Systems Spire of Excellence

6th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference

Thursday, August 2 from 8AM to 12PM Noon on Sunday, August 5
Davis Center, UVM, Burlington

This important conference will bring together food service professionals, farmers, educators, policy makers, representatives from government agencies and nonprofits, entrepreneurs, students and others who are breaking down barriers and expanding the impact of Farm to Cafeteria. There will be skill-building short-courses, field trips to innovative Vermont farms and institutions, a diverse workshop program, and plenty of opportunities to network with inspiring individuals from across the country. For more info: Farm to Cafeteria

Food Systems in the News

Vermont Agriculture Development Program Client Wins Top Prizes in International Festival

Eden Ice Cider Company of West Charleston Vermont walked away with the top awards from the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, taking 2 of the 3 total gold medals awarded in the Ice Cider category. More information: Eden Ice Cider Company or Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.