Accelerating the Development of Vermont's Green Economy

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Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Update from F2P ~ May 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:

Infill Farming and Farmland Lease Resources

How do we get more land in agriculture through leasing arrangements and infill farming? Leasing Your Land to a Farmer: An Informational Workshop for Landowners and Community Groups is a first of its kind event in Vermont aimed at reaching out to non-farming landowners and community groups to help foster these tenure models. This workshop is for private landowners interested in making their land available to farmers for agricultural production, and for members of community organizations interested in assisting local farmland owners to keep agricultural land in active production. The session will help private landowners better understand how to make their land available for farming and maintain positive arrangements with farmer tenants. It will also help community groups to better understand how they can support the leasing of farmland in their communities. The workshop, which will be held in Waitsfield on July 21st, is a collaboration of Land For Good's Land Access Project, the Vermont Land Trust, and UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture. For more details on this event, see the events section of this newsletter.

Why is this important? There is a growing need for affordable land for new and expanding farmers in Vermont. Farming on land held by non-farmers can be a win-win opportunity for owners and farmers. Ultimately, these arrangements will help increase the amount of land in agriculture and optimize the amount of food produced in our state. Infill farming and farmland lease resources are both highest priority strategies in the F2P plan. Connects with F2P Goals 5 and 6.

Farm Management Teams

The F2P Network Dairy Development working group is exploring how to expand the number of farms participating in some sort of dairy management team, or other programs to help farmers assess farm management practices, such as Ben & Jerry's Caring Dairy program. A working group committee will be evaluating the capacity of the current UVM Extension Dairy Management Team program as well as individual farmer-led models. The goal is to double the number of dairy management teams operating in the state.

Why is this important? Advisory teams can help farmers with a wide range of management issues, from strategic planning to operational management and cost of production analysis. By having a variety of advisors and staff members work as a team, a farmer can gain a more comprehensive view to help them make the best decisions for their farm. Expanding dairy management teams is one of the highest priority strategies in the F2P plan because it helps farmers better manage their business, which can lead to better margins and more successful farms. Connects with F2P Goals 4, 7, 10 and 11.

Planning and Zoning Guidance Tools

Vermont Law School recently released the report, Facilitating Innovative Agricultural Enterprises: Considerations and Example Language for Vermont Municipalities. The report, developed for the Vermont Planners Association and the Composting Association of Vermont, provides guidance for planners and municipalities on how to address and promote agri-preneurial activities such as farm stands, pick-your-own operations, corn mazes, and tasting facilities.

Why is this important? Planning and zoning play an import role in affecting how our food system grows and develops. Town plans and zoning bylaws can help protect and conserve farmland and limit development on prime agricultural soils. They can also facilitate (or hinder) innovative agricultural enterprises - which is why guidance for local planners is so essential. This guidebook is a first step in developing a comprehensive set of guidance tools for planners to help strengthen our food system. Connects to F2P Goals 5, 6, 7, 15 and 30.

Other F2P Updates

VT Food System Atlas

VSJF is currently receiving proposals for the development of the Vermont Food System Atlas. VSJF staff members are busy preparing databases that will be integrated into the Atlas. The Food System Atlas will include several components: a searchable database with all things Farm to Plate, a dashboard of high-impact indicators to track how we are doing toward Getting to 2020 F2P Goals, a forum for the Farm to Plate Network to communicate and share resources, an interactive GIS-based mapping system, and will serve as a portal to organizations and businesses working to strengthen Vermont’s food system.

Soils and Water Task Force

The Soils and Water Task Force has officially formed as a cross-cutting task force of the Farm to Plate Network. Originally a subgroup of the Technical Assistance for Producers and Processors Working Group, the Task Force now has members from the Farmland Access and Stewardship Working Group and the Dairy Development Working Group. The Task Force will be working closely with researchers from UVM, as well as agencies and organizations working to improve water quality. The main purpose of this Task Force is to develop a statewide comprehensive soil monitoring program – one of the highest priority F2P strategies.

Education & Workforce Development Working Group

With funding from the VT Department of Education and the VT Ag Innovation Center (at VAAFM), the VSJF and members of the Education & Workforce Development Working Group will be contracting with a consultant over the next 6 months to survey food system employers about their workforce needs. The results of the survey will help inform the education community about how best to create accessible and known pathways to careers in farming and food enterprises for Vermont’s youth. If you are an employer in the food system, keep a look out for a survey coming your way in July and tell us about the nature of the jobs you provide now and your plans for the future 

Team LiDAR

The Vermont Center for Geographic Information is coordinating a multi-stakeholder effort to acquire LiDAR data for the entire state. Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) is a technology similar to RADAR that can be used to create high-resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) with vertical accuracy as good as 10 cm. This data will be extremely useful to a wide variety of applications from identifying agriculture soils that are available for production, flood plain mapping, renewable energy siting, Forestry, Biomass, & Vegetation Management. Existing LiDAR coverage has been completed within the Mississquoi watershed, Essex County and a few small regional efforts; statewide coverage will greatly enhance our food system planning and implementation efforts. This is a high priority strategy within the F2P Plan and connects to Goals 5, 6, and 7.

The Farm to Plate Cross-Cutting Teams

The Cross-cutting teams (CCT) are now being formed. The first CCT meeting will be Food Access on May 21. The next team to form will be the Finance CCT. Please contact farm2plate@vsjf.org for more information.

Regional Spotlight: Addison County

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.

Addison County leads Vermont (which subsequently leads the nation) in direct sales of local food per capita. Besides this great accomplishment, Addison County can be proud of many more activities that strengthen our food system and help meet the goals of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. 

Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center

The Hannaford Career Center is a leader for food systems and agricultural education. Chick to Plate is a program managed by the Hannaford Career Center which collects chicks raised in elementary school science classes, raises them to full weight, processes them, and then sells the chicken to schools and restaurants to teach students about the entire process of raising animals for the commercial market. In their maple sugaring project, students worked on a new maple sugaring operation. Using a design created by the architecture class and building by the construction class, a sugarhouse has grown up just below the school’s 330-tree sugarbush. The Forestry and Natural Resources class installed taps, set up state-of-the-art equipment, and boiled sap. The school is also establishing a meat cutting program. It is working to establish a training program aimed at filling the dwindling ranks in Vermont’s meat cutting industry. The two-year program, which the career center will offer in collaboration with Vermont Technical College, will be offered this fall to adults (18 and over) who will be able to earn state certification for careers as meat cutters. 

Online Market Pilot

The ACORN Wholesale Collaborative has researched and piloted an online market platform developed by FoodEx to serve institutional buyers. The pilot ran from February 10 to April 13. Pilot participants represented both small and large businesses. They provided information about their existing operations and current ways they do business and provided feedback about their experience with the platform. ACORN shared their insights with the developers of the platform to improve its functionality and value to users. They are currently in the final stages of analysis and evaluation of the process. 

Three Revolutions Crowdfunding

A project of Addison County resident Kevin Lehman, Three Revolutions is a crowdfunding platform wholly dedicated to farm and food, helping farmers and other food innovators connect with their supporters and raise capital. Farmers and food system businesses can explore this funding opportunity at http://3revolutions.com.

Stone Soup Summit and Student Entrepreneur Awards

Sponsored by ACORN, The Stone Soup Summit is an annual event with the purpose of uniting education, food, farming and communities in Addison County to strengthen nutrition education programs and Farm to School and other relocalization efforts. During the Stone Soup Farm to School Summit on April 3 at Vergennes Union High School, ACORN recognized 18 students for their outstanding practice of Farm to School values in their schools and communities. Student awards included Anna Willenbaker and Alex Coyle for the business they founded and run together, Shellhouse Chicken Eggs, and Marcy Langlais for her ongoing 2-year effort to bring composting to Vergennes High School.

Education Program on Energy Production on Farms

The Acorn Energy Co-op recently presented a free program on biofuel and methane gas energy production on farms as part of its Energy Education Program Series. The session was presented by Netaka White, Bioenergy Program Director from the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, and Marie Audet, Co-Owner of Blue Spruce Farm in Addison

Legislative Updates

Universal Recycling Bill

On March 2, 2012, the Vermont House of Representatives passed H.485, a bill to establish universal recycling of solid waste. On April 26, 2012, the Senate passed the bill. This bill will establish single stream recycling over the next five years, including organics recycling. The bill calls for a prioritized best use for food scraps: 

  1. Reduce the waste stream
  2. Food recovery for human consumption
  3. Livestock feed
  4. Composting, land application, digestion
  5. Energy recovery

A lot of work needs to be done to successfully implement the goals in this bill over the next seven years. To help reach the organics recycling targets in the bill, a new Close the Loop Coalition is being formed, led by Composting Association of Vermont and Highfields Center for Composting. Founding coalition members include the Vermont Solid Waste District Managers Association, Vermont Food Bank, and VermontSustainable Jobs Fund. The Close the Loop Coalition will work together to support infrastructure for phasing-in the ban on landfilling organic materials through coordinated education, messaging, financing, and technical assistance. For more information, contact Pat O'Neill.

Working Lands Bill Signed

On May 15, Governor Shumlin signed into law H.496 the Working Lands Enterprise Bill at the St. Albans Coop. About 100 people turned out for the signing. At the signing, Governor Shumlin noted that this initiative is the first new program in government of significance since the great recession began. At the beginning of this year, many said it would be impossible to begin a new economic development program this year. With YOUR help, we achieved an historic success. The Working Lands Enterprise Fund will start off with a million dollars to invest in our working lands enterprises. You can watch a short clip of the Governor’s speech on the VT Council for Rural Development’s website. Congratulations to Paul Costello, Adam Necrason, Amy Schollenberger, the Working Lands Coalition and the rest of Paul’s team for this incredible effort. And a big thank you goes out to House Agriculture Committee for their leadership on shaping the bill, the Senate Ag, House Commerce and Senate Economic Development committees for their support and additions to the bill, the House and Senate Appropriations committees for setting aside funding for this new Fund and for the House and Senate Leadership and the Governor for being so supportive in the home stretch. A big thank you also goes to Secretaries Chuck Ross and Lawrence Miller and Commissioner Mike Snyder for their leadership and dedication to our Working Lands!

Other News

Vermont Smoke and Cure keeps on “Keeping the local farmers smokin!” in new space

Ribbon Cutting at VSCCongratulations to Vermont Smoke & Cure and Green Mountain Creamery on their grand opening this week at the former Saputo plant in Hinesburg.  A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Saturday, 5/19, at the site of the former Saputo cheese plant destroyed by fire in September of 2008.  Vermont Smoke and Cure hopes to add close to 25 jobs over the next years in their new expanded space.  An investment from the VSJF Flexible Capital Fund (the “Flex Fund”) was one of the final pieces of funding that helped make the Vermont Smoke & Cure move from Barre to Hinesburg possible.  The Flex Fund is Vermont’s first business-lending program willing to take on more risk than traditional lenders that is focused on providing royalty financing for growth stage businesses in Vermont’s natural resource and renewable energy sectors. With royalty financing, instead of taking a piece of ownership of the company, a lender provides debt that the company repays by sharing a piece of their revenue stream over a fixed period of time.  The Flex Fund makes investments in promising Vermont businesses, that might have trouble attracting venture capital due to slower investment returns inherent with smaller, value-focused businesses.   “In every way, VSC is an ideal first investment for us.  They are a mission-based company, helping more than 600 farmers get their products to market – not only by providing smoking services but also by purchasing local meat for their own branded products.  They’re helping to build a strong foundation for local and regional food systems, creating new jobs with benefits, and are expanding in a community that has recently been hard-hit by job losses,” said the Flex Fund’s President Janice St. Onge.  To learn more about the Flex Fund, visit http://www.vsjf.org/what-we-do/flexible-capital-fund or contact janice@vsjf.org.  

“Ribbon cutting ceremony”
(from left to right:  Cheryl Devos, J.D. Devos, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, Governor Peter Shumlin, Molly Lambert, Secretary Chuck Ross, Chris Bailey (VSC), Joe Colangelo, Ted Brady)

Announcement of Local Food Market Development grant recipients

VAAFM recently announced the allocation of $40,000 for the Vermont Local Food Market Development Grant Program, allocated by the VT Legislature in 2011. This program focuses on increasing Vermont producers’ access to institutional markets and increasing the quantity of local food available in Vermont institutions. Matching grant proposals of up to $5,000 were accepted this spring from Vermont farmers, producer groups, food-focused community groups, and food hubs to further institutional market relationships. Twenty-four project proposals totaling over $110,000 were received by the VAAFM and grant review committee and ten were funded which best facilitated local farms’ access to institutional markets. These grant funds will allow for relationships to expand or develop and for more efficient processing, storage and transportation of local product to assured institutional markets.

The following Local Food Market Development grants were awarded:

  • Alchemy Gardens – Shrewsbury
  • Greenfield Highland Beef – Greensboro
  • Green Mountain Farm to School – Newport
  • Grow Compost – Moretown
  • Harlow Farm - Westminster
  • Joes Brook Farm – St. Johnsbury
  • Kingdom Creamery – East Hardwick
  • Mad River Food Hub – Waitsfield
  • The Tutorial Center - Bennington
  • Vermont Technical College - Randolph Center

If you are interested in learning about potential future Local Food Market Development grant opportunities, please contact Abbey Willard, Local Foods Administrator with VT Agency of Agriculture at 828-3829 or abbey.willard@state.vt.us

Farm to School Grant Opportunity

USDA released a Request for Applications (RFA) for a new farm to school grant program. There will be two types of grants available. 1) Planning grants intended primarily for K-12 school food authorities who participate in the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program that are in the beginning phases of their farm to school efforts. 2) Implementation grants geared towards advancing existing farm to school initiatives. Applications are due June 15, 2012 and awards are expected to be made in October 2012.

Become a Price Reporter to UVM Extension

This season, UVM extension is building a robust, bi-weekly report of direct market prices. The report will be a downloadable PDF with the maximum, minimum, average, and median prices for produce sold directly to consumers around the state. To make the information useful, farmers need to report prices for the crops they are selling and UVM needs more reporters! Any farmer selling produce directly to Vermont customers can participate. NH, NY, and MA farmers selling at Vermont farmers markets are encouraged to report! Join the community effort to create a useful and relevant report for farmers throughout our region. Click HERE to report your prices. 

Business Plan Competition

Vermont Technical College is launching a Business Plan Competition for food and farm related businesses. The competition is open to residents and students in Washington, Orange, and Windsor Counties. A total of $22,250 will be awarded. Find out more HERE.

Mad River Food Hub Truck

Food Works’ Farm-to-Table program and the Mad River Food Hub, two local and independent food distribution centers serving central Vermont, have collaborated in an effort to strengthen and expand the delivery of fresh, local food to businesses, organizations and institutions throughout the region. The two hubs, who serve different communities in Washington County, worked together with VAAFM to obtain and share the use of a refrigerated truck that will enable both food hubs to greatly expand and better serve their markets. 

Funds for Missisquoi Watershed Farmers

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service recently announced that it will make $1 million available this summer to farmers in the Missisquoi River watershed who are willing to change the way they manage some of their fields. Highest priority will go to farm fields identified in a recent ground-breaking study as at highest risk of polluting nearby streams. In these “critical source areas” — many of them fields where corn is planted and the ground is left bare in winter — the federal government will pay 100% of the cost of making changes. For example, a farmer could plant a cover crop after harvesting his corn. Cover crops anchor the soil, reducing runoff from rain and snowmelt. NRCS will pay the cost of buying and planting the cover-crop seed. This project is a critical step toward reaching the state-wide goals and the F2P goals of improving water quality and limiting the amount of environmental degradation from agricultural activity. Read more.

Upcoming Food System Events

Introduction to Food Safety in Meat Processing

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 from 8AM-12PM (lunch follows)
Mad River Food Hub, Waitsfield, VT

This is an introductory-level food safety course for those making value-added meat products.The focus will be on value-added beef products, but the principles will be applicable to all species. Registration fee is $25 (includes lunch and materials). For more info: http://madriverfoodhub.com/intro-to-food-safety-in-meat-processing/

Slow Living Summit

May 30 – June 1, 2012
Downtown Brattleboro, VT

Sen. Bernie Sanders will join dozens of high-profile speakers who will address the second annual Slow Living Summit in downtown Brattleboro May 30-June 1. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, recipient in 2011 of the "greenest governor" award, will speak about Vermont's environmental initiatives. Because 2012 is the United Nations-designated Year of the Co-op, the Summit will have a special focus on co-operative organizations. For more info: http://www.slowlivingsummit.org/

Celebrating 30 years of Gleason Grains!

Saturday, June 2, 2012
Gleason Grains, Bridport, VT

On June 2nd, Gleason Grains will be celebrating their 30 years as Vermont's premiere grain growers with farm, field and mill tours. Highlights of their research and wheat breeding will be conducted by the NW Crops and Soil team of UVM. This is a must attend event for those interested in grains or you just want to meet your local miller! For more info: http://www.gleasongrains.com/

Farm First Aid & CPR for Teens

Saturday, June 2, 2012 from 8:30AM-4:30PM
Hannaford Career and Technical Center, Middlebury, VT

First Aid and CPR Certification Class for teens with a focus on farm-specific scenarios and concerns. A grant from the National Institute for Food and Agriculture helped to reduce the registration fee for this full day class to $10 per participant. Lunch is included. For more info: Contact Kristen at (802) 656-2034 or kristen.mullins@uvm.edu

Leasing Your Land to a Farmer: An Informational Workshop for Landowners and Community Groups

Saturday, July 21, 2012 from 3-6PM
Big Picture Theater, Waitsfield, VT

This workshop is for private landowners interested in making their land available to farmers for agricultural production, and for members of community organizations interested in assisting local farmland owners to keep agricultural land in active production. Please RSVP. Email info@landforgood.org or phone 603-357-1600. Questions? Contact Liza Walker, Vermont Land Trust, (802) 496-3690, Liza@vlt.org.

Food System Jobs

VT Soy Production Manager: Vermont Soy is hiring a production manager with experience in production, cleaning and management of production staff. The Production Manager is responsible for all aspects of tofu and soymilk production, will supervise a crew to assist in production, packaging and shipping.  For more information, contact Michael Carr, Business Manager at michael@vermontsoy.com. http://www.vermontsoy.com/

Program Director at Friends of Burlington Gardens: The Program Director (PD) is responsible for overseeing FBG’s local programs, including the Healthy City Youth Initiative, the Community Teaching Garden, and other garden-based education. This includes program planning and implementation, training and supervising staff, and fundraising. For more information, info@burlingtongardens.org, http://www.burlingtongardens.org/FBG_job_posting.html

Champlain Orchards seeks 3 Positions: Farm Market Manager (full time, June-November), Bakery Manager (full time, year round), and Office Manager (full time, year round). Please send letter of interest by June 15th along with resume and list of references to andrea.scott2955@gmail.com or mail to 2955 Route 74 West, Shoreham, VT 05445.

You can find more Vermont food system jobs at http://goodfoodjobs.com/