3.1: Consumer Demand Add to Collection

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A Vermont farmers' market. Photo: Josh Larkin

This section explores renewed consumer interest in local food in the context of a global industrial food system. For example, most of the food Vermonters consume is now imported from elsewhere, and food imports have increased over the past decade. But Vermont also leads the nation in a countermovement toward local food: it has the highest per capita direct agricultural products sales (i.e., from farm stands, farmers’ markets, and community supported agriculture) in the country. Moreover, the United Health Foundation considers Vermont one of the healthiest states in the nation, and Vermonters tend to eat healthier than most Americans—nearly 40% of adult Vermonters eat fruit two or more times a day, and 30% of adult Vermonters eat vegetables three or more times a day. But the percentage of overweight and obese Vermonters has also increased 22.9%, from 47.6% of the population in 1995, to 58.5% in 2010. In 2011, 59.7% of adult Vermonters were considered overweight or obese, and in 2012 the percentage was 60.3%.

This section attempts to answer these questions: Can Vermont feed itself? How much money is spent on local food purchases in Vermont? This section describes where our food comes from and where people buy food, and outlines key variables for understanding how to boost consumer demand for local food products. This section also reviews programs that provide consumer education and community outreach on food issues (e.g., food access programs), and documents some contemporary examples of the marketing of Vermont’s food system to local and regional consumers.



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Resources

Meat processing in Vermont
Photo: Over the Hill Farm

Gathering the Herd

Gathering the Herd: A Vermont Meat Processing Case Study captures lessons learned over a three year period from the Farm to Plate Meat Processing Task Force through interviews conducted by Carrie Abels with members of the task force and industry leaders. The Meat Processing Task Force within the Farm to Plate…

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Rooted in Vermont

What is Rooted in Vermont? Rooted in Vermont is a grassroots movement to increase consumer demand for local food. Rooted in Vermont is shifting the local food narrative on social media and in Vermont communities to be inclusive of the many ways Vermonters enjoy and acquire local food. Traditions like gardening,…

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Retail training to boost local food sales

Take 5 is a series of 12 local food sourcing and merchandising training videos for Vermont retail stores to help increase local food sales. The Farm to Plate Independent Grocers Task Force launched the Take 5 series of five-seven minute training videos for convenience, general, grocery and other retail stores…

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Wellspring Farm
Photo: Corey Hendrickson

NEK Farms Rooted at Local Schools

Written by Shane Rogers Green Mountain Farm Direct, a food hub run by Green Mountain Farm-to-School, is working to connect local farmers with schools, restaurants, and institutions across northern Vermont to increase the farm’s sales and boost consumption of local food in institutions and the overall region. Those partnerships have created…

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Volunteers at the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf prepare fresh food donations
Photo: Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf

Food Recovery Feeds Vermont

Written by Helen Labun The University of Vermont may not be a traditional restaurant, but it moves a lot of food. Their dining units serve an average of 12,812 meals each day—enough to feed dinner to every resident of Montpelier with plenty left over for everyone to grab dessert and a…

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Berry picking is a low cost way to bulk up on local food.
Photo: Rooted in Vermont

Low Cost Local Food

Vermonters enjoy local food and beverages in a variety of ways—growing or foraging their own, purchasing directly from a farmer or at the store, hunting or fishing, eating at schools and institutions serving local food, finding food from a community food shelf or the Vermont Foodbank, or just by trading…

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Melanie and Jeff Carpenter of Zack Woods Herb Farm
Photo: Vermont Farm Fund

Herb Production Ramps Up

Written by Kate Stephenson Zack Woods Herb Farm grows a wide variety of medicinal herbs sold as dried herbs, live plants and fresh herbs. Based in Hyde Park, their products are all certified organically grown or ethically wild-harvested on the farm. After 16 years in business, Jeff and Melanie Carpenter recently authored…

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Fall pumpkin harvest
Photo: Land For Good

Farmland investment companies

Written by Kathy Ruhf Farmland access and affordability are top obstacles for new and beginning farmers in New England and nationally. Many new farmers cannot afford to purchase land to start or expand their operations. At the same time nearly 30% of New England farmers will exit farming in the next decade.…

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Food preparation skills are developed through cooking for Meals on Wheels in the Cornucopia program in the NEK.
Photo: NEK Food System Plan

Food Justice on the Menu in the NEK

Written by Taylar Foster The Northeast Kingdom Food System Plan was re-released in December of 2016, marking a substantive update to Vermont’s only regional food system plan. The Center for an Agricultural Economy, the Northeastern Vermont Development Association, and a steering committee composed of Northeast Kingdom cross industry experts and social…

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Vermonters find purchasing season products direct from farm stands to be a good value.
Photo: Rooted in Vermont

True Cost of Local Food

Written by Rachel Carter When choosing to purchase food, cost is often a deciding factor for consumers. Why buy a 12-ounce package of local bacon for $7.99 when you can get it for $4.98? Purchasing local food means you know where your food comes from, you’re buying food that is generally healthier,…

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Intervale Food Hub delivers fresh produce to UVM.
Photo: Intervale Center

Farm to Institution Lessons Learned

Written by Bobby Young For over 10 years, the Intervale Food Hub has been working with Sodexo and the University of Vermont to increase their procurement of local foods. The Intervale Food Hub, a social enterprise of the Intervale Center, works with nearly 40 Vermont producers to sell local food direct…

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Farm to School program gleaning at Pete's Greens
Photo: Center for an Agricultural Economy

Farm to School: Good for kids, economy & communities

Written by Betsy Rosenbluth Vermont has much to celebrate as a national leader in the Farm to School movement and it hasn’t happened by accident. Nearly a decade ago, in 2007, Vermont was one of the first states to pass a Farm to School bill. That legislation has supported more than…

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Healthy and local dining options at UVM Medical Center
Photo: UVM Medical Center

UVM Medical Center Advances Farm to Institution Goals

Written by Alison Nihart New research from the University of Vermont has quantified the economic impact of local food purchasing by the University of Vermont Medical Center. This study, the first of its kind in the state, shows how Vermont’s largest hospital is contributing toward Vermont reaching its institutional consumption…

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School Lunch at Edmund's Middle School
Photo: Hunger Free Vermont

Universal Free School Meals

Written by Alida Duncan Hunger Free Vermont’s vision is for Vermont’s school cafeterias and classrooms to be a welcoming place where all kids equally share meals together, and that school provide a learning lab for healthy eating—including exposure to local foods and creating localvores for life. This vision aligns with Vermont’s…

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Woodchuck Hard Cider employees pick for their neighbors
Photo: Vermont Foodbank

Pick for Your Neighbor

Written by Judy Stermer September is National Hunger Action Month, a time when food banks across the country work to mobilize the public to take action on the issue of hunger. But hunger in Vermont is a 365 day-a-year problem. In Vermont, the Foodbank provides food assistance to 153,000 Vermonters. Nearly…

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CRAFT greenhouse learning session in Addison County
Photo: NOFA VT

Fostering New Farmers

Written by Maria Buteux Reade A group of farmers gather in a pasture and stare intently at a young man struggling to push a long probe deep into the ground. He shakes his head sheepishly and hands off the penetrometer to the next volunteer. No luck for her either. The…

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Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, Vermont
Photo: Efficiency Vermont

Vermont brewers save money

Written by Tim Perrin Beer matters in Vermont. Not only do we have more breweries per capita than any other state, we also consume 25 percent more beer than national average per capita. That’s not surprising -- if everyone else’s beer was as good as Vermont’s, they’d drink more of it…

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Regenerative Agriculture: Taking Root in Vermont

Written by Katie Spring Published in Vermont's Local Banquet In 2012, new farmers Jesse McDougall and his wife, Cally, decided not to spray the kinds of chemical pesticides and fertilizers that had long been applied to their hayfields in Shaftsbury. Their 50-acre farm, which had been in Cally’s family since 1936, was…

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Slow and Steady: Vermont’s “Snail of Approval”

Written by Caroline Abels Published in Vermont's Local Banquet The Williamsville Eatery’s website features a list of local farms and food purveyors that’s even longer than its menus. The impressive list shows where the Eatery buys its local food—but the length of the list is just one reason why the two-year-old restaurant…

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Workers at Black River Meats (Springfield)
Photo: Black River Meats

Building Brands in Small Farm Food System

Written by Mark Cannella Published in Vermont's Local Banquet Small farms in Vermont contribute tremendous value to our evolving food system by being nimble enough to respond to shifting consumer demand quickly. Small farms have pioneered niche products, such as multi-variety mesclun mixes and hybrid CSA memberships. They are engaged in cutting-edge production…

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Maggie Atherton, an 8th generation future dairy farmer
Photo: Aires Hill Family Farm

New Generation Helps Preserve Dairy Farm

Written by Laura Hardie, New England Dairy Promotion Board Karie Thompson Atherton, 35, is the seventh generation to grow up on her family’s dairy farm in Berkshire, Vermont and always knew she wanted to continue the tradition of dairy farming. “There's definitely easier ways to make a living, but none as fulfilling,"…

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Green Mountain Farm-to-School AmeriCorps members teach food preservation at Old Stone House in Brownington
Photo: GMFTS

Nutrition & Local Agriculture in NEK Schools

Written by Shane Rogers, Green Mountain Farm-to-School Be on the lookout, AmeriCorps members serving with Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS) as farm-to-school coordinators are bringing place-based nutrition and agriculture education into schools across the Northeast Kingdom – 27 to be exact. Using original, grade-specific curriculum, created with the financial support from the Stony Point…

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Happy consumer at Nea-Tocht Farm during last year's Breakfast on the Farm
Photo: UVM Extension

Changing Consumer Local Food Perceptions

Written by Julie Smith, UVM Extension, Animal and Veterinary Sciences and Ted Ferris, MSU Extension, Animal Science The first Vermont Breakfast on the Farm event gave consumers and farm neighbors a first-hand look at modern food production. Hosted by Nea-Tocht Farm in Ferrisburgh in August 2015, the event was organized and…

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Grinding Masa! All Souls Tortilleria packaged tortillas are now available at City Market in Burlington VT
Photo: All Souls Tortilleria

Tortillas with Soul

Written by Sarah Bhimani, City Market, Onion River Co-op City Market, a community-owned food co-op in Burlington, VT, has a list of Global Ends that guides their business and all that they do. One of their Global Ends is “strengthening the local food system,” which is met through a myriad of…

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David invites guests to visit with the cows and help with daily chores in the barn.
Photo: Rachel Carter

Agritourism: The Authentic Farm Experience

Wrtitten by Rachel Carter Published in Small Farm Quarterly  Tucked delightfully in the foothills of the Green Mountains along scenic Rte. 100 in Rochester, Vermont, sitsLiberty Hill Farm—a working dairy farm defined by the 1890’s red barn with cupola—one of the most photographed in all of Vermont. Beth and Bob Kennett milk…

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Seth Gillim and Mike Ingalls are managers of the Intervale Conservation Nursery, founded in 2002 and dedicated to growing native, locally sourced trees and shrubs for riparian restoration projects throughout Vermont.
Photo: Rachel Carter

Waterway Sidewalks: Native Trees & Shrubs

Written by Rachel Carter Published in Small Farm Quarterly Native trees and shrubs intertwine with one another, keeping 350-acres of flood plain intact along the banks of the Winooski River, best known as the Intervale. Located within the city limits of Vermont’s urban metropolis (42,000), Burlington boasts a solid urban farming culture,…

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A loan is helping kickstart Rob Rock’s agriculture machinery and fabrication business, a bonus for Vermont farmers in need of his custom farm equipment and metal-working services.
Photo: Farm Fund

Five Years of Funding Farms

Written by Caitlin Gildrien Published in Vermont's Local Banquet Early on a January morning in 2011, Pete Johnson of Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury heard a funny noise. When he looked out his window, he saw his barn engulfed in flames. The building and all of the equipment and product inside was in…

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Montpelier's farmers' market.
Photo: Rachel Carter

Market Trends

Written by Caroline Abels Published in Vermont's Local Banquet Over the past 10 years farmers’ markets in Vermont have burst forth like a backyard garden in July. Currently there are 63 markets in the Vermont Farmers’ Market Association, and a dozen or so that aren’t members. But every now and then you…

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Caledonia Spirits whiskey cask.
Photo: Jennifer Rose Smith

Forest to Flask

Written by Jennifer Rose Smith Published in Vermont's Local Banquet Do you know a cooper? It’s a query likely to produce confusion, as Caledonia Spirits’ founder Todd Hardie learned by putting the question to just about everyone. “For most of a year, each time I met someone, I’d say ‘Hello, do you…

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The work crew at Chappelle's Potatoes.
Photo: CAE.

Vermont Veggies Find New Markets

Written by Alissa Matthews and Sarah Waring Vermont's Local Banquet There’s no vegetable more basic than a potato. This humble, tuberous root crop, Solanum tuberosum, grows in the dark, hidden from view most of the year, and emerges late when the air is frosty. It’s not as exciting as kale, not as…

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Understanding the Vermont Food Consumer

In 2014 Farm to Plate’s Consumer Education and Marketing Working Group conducted a target audience analysis to identify and map customers and potential customers of Vermont’s food products. Spearheaded by co-chairs Beth Cullen of Root Consulting and Chris Howell of Vermont Farm Tours, the “Understanding Vermont’s Food Consumer” project is…

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Karyl Kent (Richmond Elementary), David Horner (Chittenden East), and Alison Forrest (Brewster Pierce Elementary, Huntington), school nutrition directors holding the new school cookbook they contributed to.
Photo: Caroline Abels

Cafeteria Cooking: A New Era In VT Schools

Written by Bonnie North We all know that “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Similarly, as any parent knows, you can put good, healthy food on kids’ lunch plates but that’s no guarantee they’ll actually eat it. But who can blame them? Consider what they’re…

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Vote with your dollars.
Photo: Anna Svagzdys

The Thorny Issue of Farmer Pay

Written by Mari Omland Read more in Vermont's Local Banquet Spring 2014 issue. At a wedding last summer, I sat next to a neighbor who buys her Thanksgiving turkey from our farm. She described her daily drive-by dose of the farm, and her ritual of slowing down to see where the goats, pigs,…

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Pick up time.
Photo: Bonnie North

Delivering the Goods in Windham County

Written by Bonnie North Read more in Vermont's Local Banquet Winter 2014 issue. “Eat Fresh! Eat Local!” Back in 2008, teacher Hans Estrin’s ecology students at The Putney School heard that rallying cry and launched a well-intentioned project: Take the surplus from the 3-acre garden at the private and progressive Putney School and…

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Charles Dodge of Putney Mountain Winery pours a sample for tasting.
Photo: Barbi Schreiber

Thinking Outside the Bourdeaux

As skills are wont to do, the production of fermented drinks fell away with the growth of cities and electricity, but the process is now making a comeback. The high sugar content of grapes, and their suitability for European growing conditions, made them de rigueur for wines around the world,…

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Technical assistance providers on a tour of Misty Knoll Farm.
Photo: VHCB/Farm Viability.

Vermont Farm Viability Program

Perhaps long ago, in a simpler world, farmers needed only tools, the support of helping hands, a market for their products, and advice from their neighbors to successfully grow vegetables and raise animals. But farmers today need a lot more than that. Complex equipment, well-designed facilities, marketing skills, and a…

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Vermont Fresh Network 16th Annual Forum at Shelburne Farms (2012).
Photo: B. Harrewyn | Hoverfly Photography

Vermont Fresh Network

Chefs and farmers couldn’t have more opposite schedules. Chefs work primarily in the late afternoon and well into the evening. Farmers are early risers, falling into bed soon after summer poultry are locked in for the evening. The fact that chefs and farmers are like ships passing in the night is…

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Good Food Good Medicine community meal.
Photo: Food Works

Good Food Good Medicine

Food Works at Two Rivers Center’s Good Food Good Medicine program takes a seasonal approach to good health and nutrition at two low-income housing sites in Barre. In the spring and summer months, residents at Highgate and Green Acres apartments grow their own food in community gardens or in raised…

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Farms Program class of 2009.
Photo: Intervale Center.

The Intervale Center's Farms Program

The Farms Program, a nationally recognized farm business incubator, has supported the growth of dozens of farms since 1990. Farms are accepted into the program after a rigorous application process that includes developing a business plan and presenting it to staff and existing Intervale farmers. New farmers have access to land…

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1. Conceptualizing Local Food Systems

3. Dietary Trends