Written by Ellen Kahler Vermont’s struggle to grow its workforce weakens our economy, inhibits the ability for Vermont businesses to expand their operations, and threatens the ability for Vermonters and future generations to grow and thrive here in the Green Mountains. An aging workforce, stagnant wages in jobs without career ladders,…
Download Food System Energy Issues (PDF 7MB)
Nonrenewable energy and industrial agriculture are the current paradigms of energy and food systems. However, innovations in energy and food systems are rapidly providing new opportunities for saving energy, generating renewable energy, and strengthening local food systems. Distributed renewable energy systems and local food systems both emphasize sustainability during extraction/harvesting, production/generation, and consumption, as well as local control, and the importance of relationships. Federal and state policies, financing options, cultural norms, and business offerings are increasing the availability of renewable energy and local food.
The local food movement reflects a growing preference for fresh, healthy food and direct connections with producers—and many Vermont businesses are stepping up to meet the demand. At the same time, Vermont’s food system businesses are already contributors to renewable energy generation: from the siting of large solar and wind projects on agricultural land, to agricultural and woodland crops, animal waste, and food scraps that are used as feedstocks for electricity, heat, and liquid fuel. Vermont’s food system consists of more than agricultural activities—large roofs at grocery stores and manufacturing facilities support solar installations, and several thousand buildings have made efficiency improvements.
The intersection of renewable energy systems and local food systems is fertile ground for developing sustainable solutions to pressing problems. Many food system businesses have already implemented energy saving and renewable energy producing technologies. But there is also the possibility of emerging conflicts over energy goals and food production goals. For example, many municipalities and Vermonters have expressed concern about the rapid development of larger solar PV installations around the state. Concerns have been raised about aesthetic issues, property values, development on agricultural and other land, and a perceived lack of sensitivity on the part of the Public Service Board during the Section 248 process that issues “certificates of public good” for energy generation projects. In response, a Solar Siting Task Force was created “to study the design, siting, and regulatory review of solar electric generation facilities and to provide a report in the form of proposed legislation with the rational for each proposal.”
How can we meet both Vermont’s food and energy goals? This section of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan provides a foundation for
- improving understanding of food system energy issues (including food system organizations understanding energy issues better and energy organizations understanding food systems better);
- identifying opportunities and strategies to help food system businesses reduce their reliance on nonrenewable energy sources and increase energy efficiency and the production of renewable energy; and
- improving the delivery of energy related technical assistance to food system businesses.
Search the Atlas: Find food system renewable generation sites and support organizations. -Show Categories
Written by JJ Vandette Fifteen years ago, Christa Alexander and Mark Fasching started selling the extra produce from their prolific vegetable garden. They invested in some chickens, then some livestock, some more land, and before they knew it they were farming full-time. Fast forward to today. Jericho Settlers Farm is a…
Strategies and Opportunities for Greater Local Food Procurement in Vermont Higher Education Food Service Written by Jennie Porter Institutions represent a unique opportunity in Vermont to increase access to local foods because they serve many meals a day to a wide range of people, and they can help to increase consumer awareness…
Written by Jake Claro When you ask people their definition of the Vermont food economy, they’ll often talk about farms, farmers’ markets or CSAs. What’s often missing from the conversation are the supply chain of local businesses such as distributors, food processors and manufacturers, and seed, feed, and equipment dealers. Vermont’s local…
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…
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,…
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…
Written by Liz Gamache Each spring, many Vermont sugar makers are already looking ahead to producing the next year’s crop and they may be considering what equipment upgrades they’ll need to save time, energy, and money next season. With over 1500 maple sugar makers in the state, Vermont is the largest producer…
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…
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,…
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…
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…
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,"…
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…
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…
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…
Prepared by Alex DePillis, Senior Agricultural Development Coordinator, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Highlights: 225 kilowatts of installed capacity ● 1.75 million kWh of electricity generated per year ● 7-year payback ● Cow Power farm generates electricity and uses waste heat for greenhouse Download the pdf. Lois and Maurice Maxwell started…
Prepared by Sarah Galbraith, Vermont Bioenergy Initiative Program Manager, VSJF Highlights: Cost of biodiesel production = $2.29 per gallon ● Seed meal used as a co-product for livestock feed or crop fertilizer ● Central processing facility and shared equipment use maximizes efficiency for neighboring farms Download the pdf. Roger Rainville’s dairy-turned-energy farm in Grand…
Prepared by Alex DePillis, Senior Agricultural Development Coordinator, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Highlights: 95 kW (AC) of installed capacity ● ≈120,000 kWh generated annually ● Payback period = 6 years ● Fixed rack solar PV systems and trackers are common throughout Vermont Download the pdf. McKnight Farm, an organic dairy…
Olivia’s Croutons has grown from a small, home kitchen operation—where 20 bags was a large order—to occupying an 8,000 square foot facility in a renovated barn in New Haven that ships to stores across the US. While the move to the new facility was prompted by a need for a…
Everyone in the Hardwick area knows the North Hardwick Dairy —“it’s the one on the hill with the wind turbine.” The turbine is evidence of farmer Nick Meyer’s focus on meeting his goal of greater self-sufficiency. “I want to produce everything the farm needs on the farm.” The higher and relatively stable…
At Maple Wind Farm in Huntington, the beef cattle “harvest their own feed,” as farmer Bruce Hennessey likes to say. They’re grass-fed cattle, meaning that for six and sometimes seven months of the year they eat grass on pasture, using their own energy to walk around and fatten themselves. Bruce, who…
Monument Farms Dairy began in 1930 as a home delivery route run by Richard and Marjory James in the Weybridge area. Today, the company is managed by their grandson Jon Rooney and two of his cousins, Bob James and Pete James. And their responsibilities are doled out equally, just as you’d…
Prepared by Alex DePillis, Senior Agricultural Development Coordinator, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Highlights: 100 kW of installed capacity ● ≈150,000 kWh generated annually ● Unique partnership with Green Mountain Power facilitates community-scale wind energy installation Download the pdf. The Audet Family has operated Blue Spruce Farm since 1958 and currently…
Prepared by Alex DePillis, Senior Agricultural Development Coordinator, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Highlights: 180 kW (AC) of installed capacity ● ≈200,000 kWh generated annually ● Minimal changes to the roof structure required ● Largest PV installation on a barn in Vermont Download the pdf. Upon retirement, Carol and Perry Hodgdon sold…
1. Vermont Energy Success Stories
- Efficiency on a Dairy Farm: Brace Farm pdf 1MB
- Efficiency at a Dairy Processor: Commonwealth Dairy pdf 1MB
- Solar PV on a Dairy Farm: McKnight Farm pdf 711K
- Solar Energy on a Dairy Barn: Ayers Brook Goat Dairy pdf 2MB
2. Energy Use Estimates
- 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan
- Patrick Canning et al., Energy Use in the U.S. Food System, ERR-94, USDA Economic Research Service, March 2010.
3. Technology Overview
- Dr. Ben Luce, Strategic Analysis of Farm-based Renewable Energy Opportunities in Vermont, Prepared for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, 2012. pdf 2MB
- ATTRA - Farm Energy Alternatives
- ATTRA - An Introduction to Bioenergy: Feedstocks, Processes and Products
4. Methane Digesters
- Nora Goldstein, "Farm Digester Evolution in Vermont," BioCycle, February 2013, 54(2): 28-32
- Nora Goldstein, "Digester Taps Thermal Energy to Grow Greens," BioCycle, February 2013, 54(2): 33-34.
5. Heating Resources
- Gaelan Brown, The Compost-Powered Water Heater, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2014.
- Chris Callahan and Vern Grubinger, Biomass Furnaces for Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, University of Vermont Extension, 2010.
- Biomass Energy Resource Center, Woodchip Heating Guide.
- Biomass Energy Resource Center, Wood Pellet Heating Guide.
- VT Grass Energy Partnership, Technical Assessment of Grass Pellets as Boiler Fuel.
- Biomass Energy Resource Center, An Overview of Wood Boiler Systems.
- Biomass Energy Resource Center, Biomass Energy Case Studies from Around the World.
- Biomass Energy Resource Center, Woodchip Heating Fuel Specifications.
- Biomass Energy Resource Center, Grass Energy Fact Sheet.
- Barbara Bellows, "Solar Greenhouses," ATTRA, 2008.
- Ben Luce, Heating Your Home or Business in Vermont with a Geothermal System, NVDA, 2011
- Ben Luce, Heating Your Home in Vermont with a Pellet Stove, NVDA, 2011
- Ben Luce, Heating Your Home in Vermont with a Wood Stove, NVDA, 2011
6. Oilseed Crops + Biodiesel
7. Solar Energy Resources
8. Wind Energy Resources
- Food System Energy Issues Cover jpg 5MB
- Figure 4.6.1 U.S. Primary Energy Production and Net Imports (Quadrillion BTUs), 1949-2015 jpg 583K
- Figure 4.6.2: U.S. Energy Production (Quadrillion BTUs), 2015 jpg 458K
- Table 4.6.2: Selected Capacity Factors for Utility Scale Electricity Generators jpg 1MB
- Figure 4.6.3: U.S. Energy Flow, 2015 jpg 2MB
- Figure 4.6.4: U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions (million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents), 1990-2014 jpg 516K
- Figure 4.6.5: Vermont Energy Flow, 2013 jpg 1MB
- Figure 4.6.6: Vermont Energy Consumption by End Sector, 1960-2013 jpg 421K
- Figure 4.6.7: Vermont Electricity Consumption by End Sector, 2000-2011 jpg 622K
- Figure 4.6.8: Vermont Electric Energy Supply, Before and After REC Sales and Purchases (2014) jpg 796K
- Figure 4.6.9: Vermont Renewable Electricity Generation Sites Over 500 kW* jpg 1MB
- Figure 4.6.10: Food System Renewable Electricity Production* jpg 642K
- Figure 4.6.11: Vermont Solar PV by Town* jpg 2MB
- Figure 4.6.12: Solar PV Generating Capacity from Food System Businesses jpg 515K
- Figure 4.6.13: Vermont Wind Installations* jpg 2MB
- Figure 4.6.14: Wind Generating Capacity from Food System Businesses jpg 608K
- Figure 4.6.15: Anaerobic Digester Generating Capacity from Food System Businesses jpg 705K
- Table 4.6.3: Renewable Heating Fuel Summary jpg 2MB
- Figure 4.6.16: Vermont Liquid Fuel Consumption, 1960-2013 jpg 449K
- Figure 4.6.17: Two Estimates of the Energy Required to Deliver One Calorie of Food in the U.S. (Food System Wastage and Spoilage Already Taken into Account), 1996 jpg 477K
- Figure 4.6.18: Energy Use in the U.S. Food System, 1910-2007 jpg 273K
- Figure 4.6.19: Vermont Farm Production Expenses, 1997-2012 jpg 421K
- Figure 4.6.20: Vermont Farm Distillate Sales, Gallons, 1984-2014 jpg 343K
- Figure 4.6.21: Vermont Fuel Expenses by Farm Type, 1997-2012 jpg 471K
- Figure 4.6.22: Trends in Food and Fuel Price Indices, 1990-2013 jpg 375K
- Figure 4.6.23: Vermont’s Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 1990-2012 jpg 657K
- Table 4.6.4: Solar Installations by Food System Category jpg 753K
- Figure 4.6.25: Land in Agriculture in Vermont (2012), with Solar Estimates jpg 451K