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Farm to College Convening in Vermont

http://www.farmtoinstitution.org/1/post/2014/03/farm-to-college-project-hosts-a-convening-in-vermont.html

http://www.farmtoinstitution.org/1/post/2014/03/farm-to-college-project-hosts-a-convening-in-vermont.html

On a blustery Saint Patty’s Day, over 50 farm to college enthusiasts gathered to discuss how colleges can be leaders in changing the food system. The event was co-sponsored by Farm to Institution New England (FINE)Vermont Technical College, and Sodexo. It drew participants from 8 colleges throughout Vermont, ranging from the University of Vermont, with over 10,000 students to Sterling College with less than 150. The other colleges in attendance at the gathering were Green Mountain CollegeMarlboro CollegeCollege of Saint JosephLyndon State CollegeVermont Technical College, and Saint Michael’s College.

The day began with a panel that described innovative projects ranging from food system education to on-campus farm programs to challenges and successes in serving local, fair-trade and humanely raised food in cafeterias.

Philip Ackerman-Leist, Associate Professor and Director of the Farm & Food Program at Green Mountain College, described the interesting trajectory of Farm to College initiatives as they move from an interest in sustainable agriculture to the U.S. food system and then on to the culinary arts and nutrition. 

Susie Walsh Daloz (Program Director, Farmer Training Program, University of Vermont), Molly Willard (Project Manager, Agricultural Trainings & Market Garden, Vermont Technical College), and Louise Calderwood (Adjunct Faculty inSustainable Agriculture & Special Assistant to the President, Sterling College) spoke of their on-campus farm programs designed to train the next generation of farmers and consumers. These programs illustrate the opportunity to combine hands-on academic programming with food production.
 
Stefy Narváez, the Northeast Coordinator for the Real Food Challenge (RFC) and Ani Quigley, a UVM student, shared how the RFC not only works towards change in the dining hall, but also contributes to leadership development for the the next generation of food system advocates. Their relationship with Sodexo, UVM’s food service management company, is a great example of their impact. Brian Roper, Sodexo’s Executive Chef for UVM, shared examples of how they are working with local and regional food producers to source as much “real food” as possible.

In a special guest appearance, the Vermont Secretary of AgricultureChuck Ross, shared a big picture perspective of how these efforts contribute to the national effort towards community-based agriculture. He concluded with a challenge to work outside of normal “allies” because everyone needs to be involved, from organic to conventional, and from small local company to global corporations like Sodexo.
 
The overarching goal was to build cross-office/cross-disciplinary teams from different campuses so that participants could both learn from other campuses and also spend time with their team on some visioning/planning/discussion for their campus food system. Attendees left having spent time networking with other campuses and developing goals and action steps for their colleges. One college Farm Manager reflected, "We were able to set short term goals for our campus which are trackable and attainable." 

The Farm to College Project continues to learn and develop next steps. Learn about additional events here. If you have thoughts or ideas, please send comments to Riley Neugebauer, Farm to College Project Manager, atrileyneugebauer@gmail.com.  If you want to learn more about this event, contact Richard Berkfield at berkfieldr@gmail.com