A Letter from Farm to Plate Director Jake Claro to the Vermont General Assembly and Governor Phil Scott:
This year’s Vermont Farm to Plate Annual Report features highlights of key projects from 2019, including grass-fed beef industry development, local planning for food access, wholesale markets, and small-scale on-farm composting. You will also see how Rooted in Vermont continues to engage Vermonters through inventive partnerships, the ways we are supporting the future of Vermont’s dairy sector, and a snapshot from the latest Census of Agriculture release. These selections are not meant to show the entirety of activity happening in the Network or the food system as a whole, but rather show the breadth of activity and diversity of stakeholders and sectors Farm to Plate is engaged within strengthening Vermont’s food system.
What you also won’t see in the annual report is the extent of work that is happening in parallel with our normal Network activity, to position us for the next decade of food system development.
This work started in May 2019 with the Governor’s signing of Act 23: An act relating to the Farm to Plate Investment Program, which extends Farm to Plate to January 1, 2031:
The reauthorization of Farm to Plate is, on one hand, an affirmation of the progress made in food system economic development since Farm to Plate’s beginnings in 2009.
- From 2007 to 2017, Vermont food system economic output expanded 48%, from $7.5 to $11.3 billion.
- From 2009 to 2018, net new food system employment increased by 6,529 jobs (11.2%).
- In total, over 64,000 people and 11,500 businesses are now part of Vermont’s food system.
Yet, reauthorization also acknowledges that there are goals we have not yet achieved and new challenges to be addressed—reflected by a dairy industry in transition, increasing market competition and price pressure faced by producers, significant generational transfer of farmland and farm assets, persistent food insecurity and lack of equitable access to healthy local food—all of which will require sustained and coordinated strategic action.
A renewed plan for the next 10 years is needed to re-establish a common vision and agenda, with updated and prioritized strategies and action steps.
In partnership with the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, and in fulfillment of Act 83: An act relating to agricultural development, we are setting the foundations of the next Farm to Plate Plan. Act 83, signed into law in June, includes a stipulation to submit a report of recommendations to stabilize, diversify, and revitalize Vermont’s agricultural industry by January 15, 2020, to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. In helping to create the Act 83 report, we are also beginning to create the next Farm to Plate Strategic Plan.
Working with food system subject matter experts, the report consists of 23 product, market and issue briefs spanning product areas (produce, grass-fed beef, dairy, hemp/CBD), market channels (institutions, direct markets, retail), and issue areas (climate change, access to capital, land access, soil health and water quality). The briefs cover current conditions, bottlenecks and gaps, opportunities, and finish with recommendations.
A second phase of briefs is now underway, addressing product areas and issues that could not be covered in the first phase timeline, with an aim to complete them by April 2020.
Upon completion of all of the briefs, Farm to Plate will undertake a stakeholder engagement process to further refine and prioritize strategies and recommendations to develop a shared vision for the Farm to Plate 2.0 Strategic Plan. A list of high priority recommendations identified through the stakeholder process will be completed by September 2020, with results shared at the 2020 Farm to Plate Network Annual Gathering. The final synthesized report, with high priority strategies, recommendations, and vision statement, will be delivered to the legislature in January 2021 to officially commence Farm to Plate’s next 10-year cycle. We are grateful for the continued support from the Legislature and Scott Administration to strengthen Vermont’s Food System now and into the next decade.
Farm to Plate Director
Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund