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Statehouse Lawn Transforms to Provide State Employees Access to Locally Grown Food

More than forty purveyors of local food convened on the Statehouse lawn today as part of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets’ (VAAFM) first ever summer Buy Local Market. The event, which coincides with National Farmers’ Market Week and Vermont Open Farm Week, was organized by VAAFM as part of the State’s Local Food Wellness and Consumer Awareness Initiative, in partnership with the Capital City Farmers’ Market and The Northeast Organic Farming Association of VT (NOFA-VT).

From 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., shoppers browsed booths offering a wide variety of produce, local meat, cheese, ice cream, specialty foods, and baked goods. Organizers say they sought to offer the same great quality, diversity, and freshness available at the weekend Montpelier Farmers’ Market to weekday shoppers, who might otherwise miss out.

“More than 2800 state employees report to Montpelier for work every day,” according to Vermont’s Ag Secretary, Chuck Ross. “We organized this market to provide these employees access to healthy, local foods, build Ag Literacy, and create a new market opportunity for our local producers.”

State employees were joined by town residents and privately employed workers as they perused the assortment of offerings displayed on the Capitol lawn. Montpelier’s Mayor, John Hollar, Vermont’s Secretary of Administration, Justin Johnson, and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Diane Bothfeld, addressed the crowd, stressing the importance of local food, community, and workplace wellness. A band of musically-inclined Agency of Agriculture employees entertained the crowd as the Agency’s mascot, “Clover the Cow,” posed for photos with young shoppers.

“We are so pleased by terrific turn-out for our first summertime Buy Local Market,” said VAAFM’s Local Foods Administrator, Abbey Willard. “Both farmers and shoppers have been very positive about their experience, even in the midst of some unpredictable weather. We hope to make this an annual event!”

The State’s Local Food Wellness and Consumer Awareness is an effort born out of Act 38 (2007) and Title 6 (2011), which aimed to increase the amount of local food procured by Vermont institutions in an effort to create opportunities for local farmers. Since then, the program has evolved to include employee wellness.

The goals of the program include:

  • Connecting farmers to state employees as a new market to sell product
  • Increasing state employees’ access to local food
  • Improving workplace wellness through better nutrition
  • Increasing Ag Literacy (an understanding and appreciation for how food is produced) among state employees

As part of this initiative, the Agency of Agriculture launched the first State of Vermont Workplace CSA, connecting farmers and state employees and enabling deliveries of fresh, local food to worksites across the state. Program administrators have also worked to increase local purchasing in state government, and to provide employees with resources to connect with farmers in their home communities. VAAFM also organizes an annual wintertime Buy Local Market each January as part of the Farm Show at the Chaplain Valley Exposition.

For a full list of the vendors that participated in today’s event, visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/buylocalmarkets

Today’s Buy Local Market at the Statehouse was one of several events held across the state in recognition of National Farmers’ Market week, including the first statewide “Open Farm” event, organized bymembers of the Vermont Farm to Plate Agritourism Task Force including Intervale Center, Vermont Farm Tours, Neighboring Food Co-op Association, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Vermont Fresh Network, Vermont Department of Tourism, Shelburne Farms and Farm-based Education, NOFA-VT, and City Market. To learn more about Open Farm Week, visit http://www.diginvt.com/blog/openfarmweek/

For more information about the Agency of Agriculture’s efforts to support local farmers and increase consumption of local food, visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development

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About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets: VAAFM facilitates, supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment.  www.Agriculture.Vermont.Gov