Network Gathering

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November 7-8, 2019, Killington Grand Resort 

The Farm to Plate Annual Gathering is the one time each year when the entire Farm to Plate Network comes together to reflect on what has been accomplished and plan for the challenges that lie ahead implementing Vermont’s food system plan. The theme for this year's Gathering will be At The Crossroads: Our Food and Farm Culture and Economy. We are at an inflection point in Vermont agriculture.  The Network will work together to identify how we can keep something so significant to our present and past, and discuss how to move our culture of food and agriculture forward.

Registration is now closed.

 
AGENDA:
 
Thursday, November 7th:
 
8:00-9:15am         Registration & Networking
 
9:15am                 Opening Remarks
9:50am                 Culture and Agri-CULTURE Plenary: Vermont Folklife Presentation - The Cultural History and Cultural Influence of Agriculture in Vermont
  • A presentation by the Vermont Folklife Center examining the lived experiences of farmers and agriculture’s influence on Vermont’s overall cultural identity. 
10:20am               Plenary Panel: Farmer Perspectives on Vermont's Culture Past & Future 
  • Facilitated by Ben Hewitt of Rural Vermont, with Panelists Paul Doton, Doton Farm | Matt Angell, White Rock Farm | Shona Sanford-Long, Luna Bleu Farm | Taylor Mendell, Footprint Farm | Chuda Dhuarali, Pine Island Community Farm                                
 
12:30pm               Lunch
 
2:00-3:30pm         Breakout Sessions:
  • What do we really mean by Ecosystem Services?  Policy options and directions for Vermont : Vermonters highly value both clean water and a viable agricultural economy as core to our identity as a state and our rural economy. Several conversations, in the statehouse, at UVM’s Gund Institute, and in the agricultural community, have led to consideration of systems of compensating farmers for more than the food and fiber they produce. The purpose of this session is to convey the basic concepts and principles of a PES system, the status of discussions of a legislative working group, and hear farmers’ concerns and questions as Vermont explores how to support agricultural practices that are restorative and extend beyond current regulatory requirements. 
  • Rebalancing the Vermont Agricultural Portfolio: Growth and Replacement : For many years farmers, policy and industry leaders have recognized the reliance of the the Vermont agricultural economy on the dairy industry.  Many initiatives have been successful in elevating local foods, new farm products and innovative marketing but the overall agricultural portfolio has not necessarily been rebalanced or spread between more growing sectors. This session will invite leaders from various non-dairy farm product sectors (poultry, beef, sheep, crops, maple, produce, fruit etc..) to discuss producer capacity, leadership and likelihood of measurable growth.
  • On-Farm Composting: Hire Farmers to Close the Nutrient Loop! : The Food Cycle Coalition is creating resources to support farmers in accepting and managing food scraps for optimal soil health while staying beneath the ANR regulatory threshold. Community members and farms can benefit from partnering to reduce and to manage food waste. Farmers can improve fertility while lowering off-farm inputs and communities can work together to close the loop locally, reducing overall emissions from trucking waste and potentially save on associated hauling fees. After a presentation on the findings and materials created so far, attendees will engage in a dialogue on the remaining barriers and the connection with other farm viability strategies and ecosystem services discussions.
  • The Current State of the Wholesale Market : Building off our deep dive into the wholesale marketplace at last year’s Gathering, over the past year NOFA-VT has teamed up with Rose Wilson and the Aggregation and Distribution Working Group to conduct an in-depth study into the wholesale marketplace. The research for this report included an exploratory seminar about the specialty food and regional distribution system, a wholesale producer focus group, and interviews with VT and regional distributors and buyers. In this session, we will share our findings, discuss the challenges and opportunities that were uncovered, and begin to make plans for next steps for the F2P Network based on these findings.
  • It's never too early: sowing seeds for a sustainable future via succession planning & expanded access to affordable land : Three different kinds of capital provider shed light on the mechanics, realities, and innovation opportunities of planning and paying for business succession. They are accompanied by a seasoned business assistance provider with in-depth understanding of farmer experiences in navigating such transitions, whether entering or exiting. Learnings from succession examples can shed light on what sustainability means in this context, and what matters most to session participants. This session promises to be pertinent to one of the biggest opportunities and challenges faced by the VT food system: successfully passing the baton from one generation to the next across enterprises, farmland, and markets. 
  • Narrative & Framing Tools for More Successful Food System Communications : Why should you care about the "narrative" and "framing" behind your in-person, online or print communications? How you talk about your work, business or organization affects how successfully you engage other people. But not everyone responds to the same kinds of "messages" or communication methods in the ways you'd like. Come learn how the Food Solutions New England network has invested in learning what kinds of narrative, framing & messaging will help us create the food system we all need while avoiding communications pitfalls that work against our shared goals. Come prepared by thinking about at least one audience or group of people that you need to better connect with in order to meet your objectives.
3:45pm                 Envisioning Our Agricultural Future Together
 
5:30-7:30pm         Cash Bar                             
6:30-8:00pm         Dinner
 
Friday, November 8th:
 
7:30am                  Breakfast
8:30am                  Opening Remarks
 
9:15-10:45am        Breakout Sessions: 
  • The Power of the Dairy Economy: Why Dairy is still important to the State of Vermont (Part 1) : Vermont's agricultural economy is grounded in dairy and has been for many generations, creating the framework for the state's identity and developing networks that have impacts well beyond the farm gate. From commodity milk to specialty cheese, Vermont has a major presence in the dairy case across the nation and beyond. At this moment in time, a number of circumstances have combined to create a challenging situation for many of the state's farmers leading to farm closures and widespread financial concerns. In this session we will dive into what it means to be a Vermont dairy farmer at this particular juncture of time - how is milk produced on the farm, where does it go for processing, how are milk prices set, and how is Vermont impacted by national and international forces? We will provide significant time for questions and audience feedback, and seek to offer a session that will ground participants in a deeper and more thorough understanding of Vermont's dairy industry.
  • Soil Series: Regenerative Agriculture in the Climate Justice Movement (Part 1) : In this 3-hour session, we will: 1) present information on healthy food systems, healthy soils, and healthy water cycles, 2) share and expand on existing networks of people and organizations (social mycelium) doing work on regenerative agriculture in the climate justice movement, and 3) collaborate with community members to assess the current work being done, identify gaps, connect people to organizations, and connect organizations. The goal is to continue to build knowledge, momentum, and action toward healing our planet and building a thriving, resilient, and just food system that is in harmony with the earth's systems. This deep dive will be one continuous session; participants are strongly encouraged to attend the full three-hour session. 
  • Taking Root: Lessons Learned and Next Steps for the Taking Root Student Symposium : In October 2018, Sodexo’s VT First, UVM, Farm to Plate, and the VT Agency of Agriculture hosted the first Taking Root Student Symposium at UVM, a statewide event for all Vermont college students to learn more about farm to institution and what it means to pursue a career working in the food system.  Over 80 students from 7 different Vermont campuses attended.  In this “From the Field” session, attendees will learn more about the event from the key organizers and attendees, content from the day, and feedback from attendees. Participants in this F2P session will use this information to discuss where to go next with student engagement of this kind - engagement that is designed to help young people navigate the education and workforce continuum in this field.  This work highlights the importance of keeping young people in the state while building agricultural/food system literacy and continued demand for local food.
  • Stepping into Vermont's Role as a Global Leader in Agritourism : Vermont has a long and proud history of welcoming visitors on our farms and building community around agriculture. Our focus on authenticity and terroir is similar to Italy, often considered the birthplace of modern-day agriturismo and where the First World Congress on Agritourism was held in 2018. To build on the success and momentum of the conference in Italy, the next conference will be held in October 2020 in Burlington. This is a tremendous opportunity for farms and local food entrepreneurs in Vermont and throughout the region. Come to this deep dive session to explore strategies for using the international agritourism conference as a launch pad for enhancing global and regional markets for Vermont’s farm products and experiences.
  • Making Systems Change Local: applying lessons from the Food Access Planning Guide : A new resource called "Local Planning for Food Access: A Toolkit for Vermont's Communities" has just been published, and is being debuted at the Network Gathering! This session will build from previous years' workshops about the opportunity to address food access in municipal plans. Attendees willlearn how they can use the toolkit and work in their communities to address food access in their local plan. A panel presentation will share information about the toolkit, discuss how communities are currently addressing food access through local planning, and share a case study of how Vermont Department of Health has been successfully partnering with communities in their town planning process. In small groups, participants will work together to strategize how they would bring this work to their local community and overcome common barriers like building enthusiasm among key decision makers, implementing projects, and funding constraints. Leave ready and able to help your community support food access in its municipal plan!
11:00am-12:30pm   Breakout Sessions: 
  • The Power of the Dairy Economy: Why Dairy is still important to the State of Vermont (Part 2) : In this second dairy focused session, we will be highlighting what the future for dairy could look like in Vermont. We will cover current happenings that are starting the broaden the discussion - the position and opportunity of organics, outcomes from the Northern Tier Dairy Summit, and the movement of consumer preferences. Jeremy Stephenson, from Spring Brook Farm and Creamery, will be joining us during this portion to discuss his work on developing a milk for cheese collaborative which is an innovative approach to supporting Vermont's successful specialty cheese production system. Participation from attendees about their innovative ideas and ways that current discussions and work are complementary is welcome and will lead to a more robust set of outcomes to continue to move the dairy discussion forward.
  • Demystifying State Grants: Your Guide to Funding for Farmers and Producers : Would you like to apply for a state grant but don’t know where to start? Do you work with farmers or producers who may be eligible for state grants? Applying for your first grant can be intimidating—we’re here to demystify the process! You can come prepared to discuss your idea for a grant-funded project or simply to get an overview of what’s available. This workshop will introduce participants to Vermont Agency of Agriculture grant and financial assistance programs and provide an opportunity to discuss and refine grant project ideas. The workshop will include approximately 30 minutes of presentation from Agency staff, followed by a partner/small group activity for participants to share and discuss potential grant projects. The final third of the workshop will bring the full group together to report out and ask questions. 
  • Soil Series: Regenerative Agriculture in the Climate Justice Movement (Part 2) : In this 3-hour session, we will: 1) present information on healthy food systems, healthy soils, and healthy water cycles, 2) share and expand on existing networks of people and organizations (social mycelium) doing work on regenerative agriculture in the climate justice movement, and 3) collaborate with community members to assess the current work being done, identify gaps, connect people to organizations, and connect organizations. The goal is to continue to build knowledge, momentum, and action toward healing our planet and building a thriving, resilient, and just food system that is in harmony with the earth's systems. This deep dive will be one continuous session; participants are strongly encouraged to attend the full three-hour session. 
  • Learning Together: Peer-to-Peer Opportunities for Farmers and Food Businesses in Vermont : Are you interested in how peer learning and partnerships can benefit farm and food businesses? Are you thinking about how you can foster more business to business partnerships or design peer based learning programs? Are you skeptical that peer learning programs and models can work in the private sector? This session will explore different approaches to building business-to-business partnerships and peer-learning experiences, how they provide mutual benefit and long lasting value to farm and food business participants, and keys to building business-to-business partnerships and designing successful programs that help entrepreneurs focus on what they do best and lead to smarter, more competitive, and well connected industry cohorts.

     

  • Creating Inclusive Prosperity for the Vermont Food and Farm Culture and Economy Through Terroir: Champagne, France and Genoa, Italy have used terroir, the power of the story of the place and process of production, to increase the prosperity of everyone in their region.  Vermont has the distinct opportunity to do the same, and Charlie Merinoff is making it work now.  Getting a premium price for the food and drinks we produce, in an environmentally friendly way, allows everyone in the farm and food system to prosper.  In this presentation and interactive discussion, Charlie will show how various regions are using terroir to upgrade the prosperity of an entire region, how he has been doing this for years, how it is currently being done here in Vermont, and how participants in the farm and food system can start prospering this season.
  • From Hunger Relief to Food Sovereignty: Approaches to Improving Food Access in Vermont : The Food Access Cross-Cutting Team will present a new toolkit, “Approaches to Food Access: An Assessment Tool & Resource Guide” (working title), and will encourage participants to explore it within the framework of their individual organizations. This toolkit is an assessment tool where communities, businesses and organizations in Vermont may explore how their own activities support improving food access. The purpose of this toolkit is to find ways to enhance and deepen the work currently being done in the state, and understanding that there are many approaches to addressing the problems of hunger and food insecurity.
12:30pm                 Lunch & Closing Remarks