Agriculture & Food Systems
Through its efforts to strengthen Vermont’s food system, the Farm to Plate Investment Program helps Vermont reach broader goals related to improving Vermont’s economy, environment, and social well-being.
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and its Farm to Plate Network partners are working to create quality jobs, open additional markets for locally produced food, improve economic development in the farm and food sector, and improve access to healthy food for all Vermonters.
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund has provided leadership on multiple Farm to Plate Network projects, assisted with industry level strategic planning, and provided business assistance, network and value chain development services for the farm and food sector since 1997.
Indications of Progress in Vermont
- Economic development has increased in Vermont’s farms and food sector and has created jobs in the farm and food economy.
- 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 6,560 jobs (11.3%).
- In total, over 64,000 people and 11,500 businesses are now part of Vermont’s food system.
- 378 net new farms and food businesses were created from 2009 to 2018.
- As of the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the total number of acres in agricultural production is showing a loss of farms due to losses in the dairy sector: 1997 (1,262,155 acres), 2012 (1,251,713 acres), to 2017 (1,193,437).
- The Vermont Land Trust has conserved approximately 173,000+ acres of agricultural land as of 2019 with 720+ farms using conserved land.
- A comprehensive analysis of population indicators for each of the 25 goals of the first Farm to Plate Strategic Plan is available on the Farm to Plate website.
In 2019, the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) was reauthorized by the Vermont state legislature to continue this work and create the Vermont Agriculture and Food System Strategic Plan 2021-2030. The final version was published February 8, 2021. The Farm to Plate website will soon feature updated data visualizations of the new plan’s measurable objectives, which track progress towards the 2021-2030 Plan’s 15 Strategic Goals.
The Farm to Plate Network provides immeasurable value to the agricultural and food associations within the state. Thanks to Farm to Plate efforts, our food associations have come together, recognized shared values, learned more about unique issues for each food or agricultural association, worked together on a common path, and learned from the concerns of each sector in Vermont’s agricultural economy. My professional growth as a member of the Farm to Plate Network has been amazing and I feel very fortunate to work on this effort.”
VSJF Program and Service Results
- The original Farm to Plate Strategic Plan was released in January 2011 after conducting research and analysis to determine current conditions, bottlenecks and trends, and recommendations for action within Vermont’s food system.
- The Farm to Plate Network was launched in October 2011 to implement the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. At its start, 125 organizations joined the Network. Today the Network is made up of over 300 organizations statewide.
- Over an 18-month period spanning 2019-2021, Farm to Plate commenced a new strategic development process to create the state’s next 10 year food system plan In February 2021, the Farm to Plate Network officially commenced the next 10-year cycle with the release of the Vermont Agriculture and Food System Strategic Plan 2021-2030. The 2021-2030 Plan includes a vision, 15 goals, 87 measurable objectives, 34 priority strategies, and 276 recommendations for advancing the agriculture and food system in Vermont. Over 1,500 Vermonters provided input and help to shape its content.
- Over the past ten years, VSJF has provided both leadership, financial and critical administration support to 23 Farm to Plate Network groups, enabling a high level of collaboration between private, government, and nonprofit sector stakeholders than previously existed.
- Beginning in February 2021, VSJF will be stewarding a process with the Farm to Plate network to reimagine the network structure for the next ten years.
- A comprehensive analysis of performance measures for each of the 25 goals of the first Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. Analysis will continue with the 15 Strategic Goals of the new 2021-2030 Plan.
- Farm to Plate Annual Reports to the Vermont Legislature
- The Meat Processing Task Force within the Farm to Plate Network, active from 2011 to 2013, facilitated greater mutual understanding between livestock farmers and meat processors – two constituencies that had been in minimal contact with each other and were largely unaware of each other’s’ challenges. Through a combination of outreach, education, financial analysis, and the sharing of funding opportunities, the task force provided the private sector with market intelligence and networking opportunities as new processing facilities were being established and existing ones were expanding.
- Farm to Plate Network efforts are developing the grass-fed beef value chain. Research was undertaken to update Vermont on the market for grass-fed, grass-finished Vermont beef. The study explored the scale and nature of the current market, and sought to identify key challenges and opportunities through interviewing seven meat aggregators and distributors and Vermont’s largest institutional buyer, Sodexo.
- In 2013, the Food Cycle Coalition conducted an asset mapping project to identify priority strategies that can assist with the transition from waste disposal to resource management for currently landfilled organic materials and can ensure strong and significant participation from the food system to reach the goals of Act 148, Vermont’s Universal Recycling law.
VSJF’s year-long intensive coaching engagements with 22 farm and food related businesses between 2011-2017, resulted in more than $14 million in new capital raised, more than $2.5 million increase in payroll and at least 43 new full-time and 49 part-time jobs.
Providing support and direction for hundreds of organizations, businesses, and individuals that make up the Vermont Farm to Plate Network could be an unwieldy task, but the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and its incredible staff do this with ease. As a backbone organization, they bring grace, honesty, and transparency to the Network while also encouraging momentum and asking the hard questions of Network groups. The Farm to Plate Network has big ideas and big goals, and VSJF has done a great job of helping groups turn these ideas into viable projects and these goals into attainable bench markers toward a Vermont food system that works for producers, consumers, and the environment.