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2016 Farm to Plate Annual Report to the Vermont Legislature

As the administrators of the Farm to Plate Investment Program legislation (2009), the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) is responsible for preparing the Farm to Plate Annual Report for the Vermont Legislature to report on Vermont's progress to increase economic development and jobs in Vermont's farm and food economy and improve access to healthy local food for all Vermonters. The Vermont Legislature tasked VSJF with conducting a public engagement process and developing a statewide food system plan ( Farm to Plate Strategic Plan, 2011-2020) to reach the goals of the legislation. The public engagement process led to the development of the Farm to Plate Network--over 350 farms, food production businesses, specialty food producers, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, capital providers and government agencies working together to implement Vermont's Farm to Plate food system plan.

The Vermont Legislature's Intended Outcomes for the Farm to Plate Investment Program and Progress-to-Date:

Strategic Priority Areas Over the Next 5 Years:

1.)   Protect and Expand Affordable and Environmentally Sustainable Farmland in Agricultural Production

Access to affordable and environmentally sustainable farmland is imperative to increase our local food supply and grow our agricultural economy. The Farm to Plate Network is creating strategic partnerships and tools to address a continuum of farmland access issues including farm succession planning, farmland conservation, and farmland investment, leasing, and matchmaking. The Network is also working to improve soil and water quality through research, monitoring, information sharing, and training.   


2.)   Improve Viability of Farms and Food Businesses

If farms and food businesses are not profitable, Vermont’s agricultural economy cannot be sustainable. Cost and scales of production, sales in different market channels, food safety, business management, infrastructure and equipment, distribution, and environmental impacts all play roles in overall business viability. The Farm to Plate Network addresses these variables by identifying effective business models and building trust and transparency along entire supply chains (e.g. Vermont’s meat industry) to help farmers and producers profitably sell into wholesale, retail, and other markets.


3.)   Increase Local Food Availability and Affordability in All Market Channels

In order for local food to be accessible to all Vermonters, it needs to be more readily available and affordable where most Vermonters purchase food. The Farm to Plate Network works to open new wholesale market channels at institutions and grocery stores in Vermont and New England, while supporting Vermont’s restaurant and direct market channels. The Network seeks to make local food available in these market channels more affordable to consumers through incentive programs, procurement policies, and more efficient supply chain logistics. Current efforts focus on finding ways for independent grocery stores and distributors in Vermont to increase the amount of local food sourced and to provide access to technical / business assistance to improve local product marketing.


4.)   Increase Consumer Engagement and Demand for Local Food

When consumers demand more local food, it sends a signal to the marketplace for more local food to be produced, distributed, and available to Vermonters. The Farm to Plate Network is developing a statewide, grassroots marketing campaign to increase consumer education and demand for local food. As farmers and producers scale up production and additional market channels (retail, restaurants, institutions, direct sale) are opened to more Vermont food, the local food campaign will stimulate increased awareness, participation, and purchases in Vermont’s local food economy.


5.)   Meet Food System Employment Needs in Positive Work Environments

As the farm and food economy grows, more jobs are created which creates workforce opportunities and challenges for both employees and employers. Coordinated Farm to Plate Network activities are helping prepare and educate students to meet the growing workforce needs of food system employers. The Network is also working to help farm and food businesses improve their human resources management so that workers have better working conditions and wages, while the businesses have a competitive advantage to recruit the workers they need.


The Farm to Plate Network creates the space for strategic conversations across multiple audiences and perspectives to make systematic food system change that no one organization can do alone. The Network's collective ability to be adaptive and innovative will be crucial over the next five years in order to address a changing federal landscape (e.g., uncertainty about what changes in immigration policy and dairy pricing will mean to Vermont dairy farmers), to new water quality rules, to new markets for Vermont products, to climate change impacts, and demographic changes that will impact both farm ownership and workforce needs. The Farm to Plate Network, in partnership with the Scott Administration, hopes to meet these challenges and continue to grow our local and regional food systems for the benefit of all Vermonters and our rural communities.