Network Gathering

This year’s Gathering may be virtual, but it’s no less important! This year marks a period of transition with the closing of the first 10 years of Farm to Plate and the beginning of the next ten years. Together as a Network we’ll get a first glimpse at the next 10-year strategic plan – it’s vision, goals, and objectives – and in breakout sessions dive into priority issues that have emerged through stakeholder engagement and public input to determine the ways in which we’ll collaboratively work together to bring our shared vision to fruition. We’ll also hear stories of adaptation and transition in the food system during Covid, and reflect on what we can learn and apply from them to the next decade of food system development.

The Gathering will be held Thursday, November 12 from 12:30pm-5:30pm and Friday, November 13 from 9am-12:30pm, and will be hosted virtually.  Links to sessions will be sent to you prior to the Gathering via email. There is a flat fee of $30 to register for the Gathering regardless of number of sessions/days attended. We’re offering to cover the registration fee for farmers, food workers, or food business owners who need assistance with registration costs.

REGISTRATION HAS NOW CLOSED.

The following agenda is subject to slight changes:

Gathering Agenda Day One

12:30-12:50pm: Opening remarks

·        Stakeholder process results and sharing of vision

12:50-1:00pm Transition Break/Trivia

1:00-2:25pm: Plenary Panel –Join the Vermont Farm to Plate Network and a wonderful slate of panelists for a discussion about stories of adaptation, transition, and what they say about the future of our food system. Our speakers will be Amber Arnold and Naomi Deyoe of The SUSU Healing Collective, Andrew Peterson of Peterson Quality Malt, Erika Lynch of Babette’s Table, and Cat Buxton of Grow More, Waste Less and the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition

  • 4 food system stories (50 min- 1hr)
  • Questions and discussion (25-35 min)

2:25-2:45pm: Transition Break/Trivia

2:45-5pm: Breakout Sessions

Creating a Climate and Environmentally Resilient Food System: Vermont will face considerable disruption to the local food system, including farm profitability and viability because of climate change. In addition, Covid-19 has given us a glimpse of the significant impacts climate change will have on global food production and supply chains, intensifying the need to increase the  resilience of Vermont farming and local food systems and maintain our agricultural land base. With rising awareness of the need to address climate change impacts on our food system, Vermont agriculture is also experiencing an explosion of momentum around the concept of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) in parallel with ever increasing public concern about water quality. In this session, using content from the Climate Change, Water Quality, and PES briefs we’ll explore how Vermont’s food system can become more climate and environmentally resilient, and identify priority actions the Farm to Plate Network can take to advancing this goal.

Facilitators: Joshua Faulkner, UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Alissa White, UVM Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative


Farm Succession, Future Farmers, and Securing the Working Landscape: Vermont is facing a dramatic shift in the agricultural sector due to economic and demographic changes. Over the next five years, as many as 300 Vermont farms may change hands as existing farmers retire. New and beginning farmers face a number of challenges including shifting markets and production models, increased risk due to climate change, and barriers to accessing land. If managed strategically, farm transfers could lead to the next generation of vital farms and strengthen Vermont’s rural economies. If not, land farmed for generations could sit fallow, become less productive, or be lost to development. In this session, using content from the Supporting Future Farmers, Farm Conservation, and Succession briefs, we’ll identify priority actions for the Farm to Plate Network to take in securing the working landscape for the future.

Facilitators: Maggie Donin, Vermont Land Trust; Sam Smith, Intervale Center


Strengthening our Regional Food Security and Increasing Food Access For All: All Vermonters have a right to healthy, affordable food, not only today but in times of crisis, regardless of their life circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the benefit of a thriving agricultural economy in buffering national food supply chain disruptions, particularly for those already struggling to obtain adequate food. In order to reduce climate and pandemic-related risks to our food security, and to protect the most vulnerable, we need to reorient a significant part of our food production to the regional level. Coordinated, statewide action is needed to ensure food security across Vermont, in times of crisis and times of calm, for every Vermonter. This session, using content from the Food Security brief and the Food Access and Farm Viability brief, will explore priority actions for feeding Vermont and the role that the Farm to Plate Network can play.

Facilitator: Becka Warren, Vital Communities/Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund


Wholesale & Regional Market Development – Addressing the Intersection of Consumer Demand, Marketing, and Distribution to Access Major Metro Markets: Metropolitan markets within driving distance of Vermont have long captured the attention of Vermont farms, food businesses, and food system organizations. The allure exists for good reason - with nearly 50 million people and 18,000 grocery stores within a 6-hour drive (330 mile radius from Montpelier), regional metro markets hold immense opportunity to support the growth and viability of our farms and food businesses. Yet, accessing and competing in these markets is not without challenges, requiring significant marketing investment and acumen along with reliable and efficient distribution to move product that is at a premium for many of the smaller farm and food businesses operating in Vermont. In this session, using content from the Major Metropolitan Markets, Consumer Demand, and Distribution briefs we’ll explore the key issues impacting metro market access, and work to identify priority actions the Farm to Plate Network can take to break down barriers and capitalize on opportunities.

Facilitators: Jake Claro, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund; Jean Hamilton, Shift Meals; Lauren Masseria, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

Addressing Systemic Racism and Racial Equity in the Food SystemThis session has been postponed, and will be held as a stand-along convening at a later date. The plan for this session was to present the Racial Equity brief in development for the next Farm to Plate Strategic Plan, and use the findings and recommendations from the brief to frame and guide discussion for how the Farm to Plate Network collectively can address racial equity and systemic racism over the next 10 years. However, more time is needed to get greater representation and input from the BIPOC community into the brief before feeling confident and comfortable presenting on it publicly. Thank you for understanding.

 

 

5:00-5:20pm: Closing/Reflections

Gathering Agenda Day Two

9-9:30: Welcome back, opening remarks, harvest reflections from day 1

9:30am-9:45am Transition Break - trivia

9:45-12 Breakout Sessions

The Future of Dairy – Cows, Goats, Cheese, Markets, and the Environment: For generations, Vermont has been defined by dairy, an industry that has an economic impact of $2.2 billion annually and adds nearly $3 million in circulating cash daily. Wherever you are in the state, and whomever you meet, you are not far removed from the dairy sector and the socio-economic impacts stretch well beyond the farm gate. Undoubtedly the industry is undergoing a difficult transformation - environmental concerns and low milk prices continue to be a struggle for many dairy farmers, and as the current dairy crisis roils the industry, Vermont is rapidly losing the highest-value use of the working landscape, putting the agricultural land base at risk of permanent loss. Yet, strong foundations and bright spots remain for transformation, with prospects for grass-based dairy products, cheese, and goat dairying on the horizon that point to dairy having a strong ongoing influence on Vermont’s agricultural economy and landscape. In this session, using content from the Dairy, Cheese, and Goat briefs, we’ll discuss what the future of dairy over the next 10 years in Vermont may look like, and identify how Farm to Plate and the food system can aid the stabilization, revitalization, and diversification of the dairy industry.

Facilitators: Regina Beidler, Organic Valley Coop; Laura Ginsburg, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets


Pathways to Diversification - Growing Our Ag-Portfolio through Technical Assistance, Supply Chain Development, Policy, and Financing: Vermont agriculture sees itself at a critical juncture of transition and transformation. It is a time of both significant challenges and opportunities, in part defined by a growing need to diversify Vermont’s “portfolio” of production by building out new agricultural and food industries that can thrive at scale alongside Vermont’s mature dairy industry. Though Vermont has established a strong network of agricultural and food business technical assistance, additional effort, investment, and personnel are needed to bring more of our agricultural industries to scale and maturity, and keep up with the rapidly evolving needs of the sector. In addition, significant capital investment is needed to develop these industries and keep existing and emergent farm and food businesses competitive, while also enabling transfers of land and businesses from one generation to the next. And Vermont’s food system policies need to evolve in a way that continues to benefit the public at large while also supporting Vermont agricultural and food producers to live healthy lives, produce high-quality food, and operate thriving businesses in their communities. Using content from the Business and Technical Assistance, Access to Capital, and Agriculture and Food Policy briefs this session will focus on what’s needed at the intersection of technical assistance, financing, and policy to support the transition of our production portfolio from one that is heavily reliant on one commodity to one that is populated by multiple viable mature agricultural industries.

Facilitator: Ellen Kahler, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund; Janice St. Onge, Flexible Capital Fund, L3C; Ela Chapin, Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program; Kyle Harris, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets


The Future of Direct Sales – Securing Strong Foundations and Nurturing New Beginnings:  Over a quarter of Vermont farms sell directly to consumers through farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and other “direct market” channels. Direct markets are critical because they allow producers to capture more income for each product sold (compared to wholesale), require low up-front investment, give producers more autonomy over the products they sell, and foster customer relationships through experiential marketing (an increasingly important tactic across all industries). The trends towards consolidation and downward price pressure in wholesale markets favor larger producers and create challenges for many small to medium-scale producers, accentuating the importance of strengthening direct markets as the foundation of a working landscape of diverse farms at all scales. In this session, using content from the Direct Markets, Marketing, and Agritourism briefs, we’ll discuss what the future of direct sales in Vermont in the next 10 years might look like and what role the Farm to Plate Network can play.

Facilitators: Jennie Porter, NOFA-VT;  Alissa Matthews, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets;  Lisa Chase, University of Vermont Extension

The Next Decade of Ag & Food System Literacy and Education: For Vermonters to be knowledgeable local food consumers and agricultural advocates, they need food and farm experiences throughout their lives. For Vermont’s food system businesses to thrive, they must be able to overcome the workforce shortage that many report is holding back their production and grown. Starting with our earliest learners and continuing into adulthood, we need to connect the populace to the land and our farmers, teach basic knowledge and skills in food and farming, demonstrate the connection to other issues such as climate change and water quality, and develop work ethic and transferable skills. In this session, using content from the Agricultural Literacy, Agricultural Literacy K-12, Education, and Workforce briefs, we’ll explore what agricultural & food literacy & education should look like at all ages, and how the Farm to Plate Network can support this work.

Facilitators: Betsy Rosenbluth, Vermont FEED/Shelburne Farms; Dana Hudson, Shelburne Farms


Building Coalitions Beyond the Food System – Healthcare, Childcare, Racial Equity, and Workforce Development:  Vermont’s food system intersects with many other complex systems, and moving the needle on food access, farm viability, and equity depends on building cross-sector coalitions. This session will dive into several topics that require a partnership “beyond the food system,” then ask what it could look like for the Farm to Plate Network to engage in intersectional work in the next ten years.

Facilitators: Ashwinee Kulkarni, Vermont Department of Health; Heidi Lynch, Vermont Farmers Food Center; Graham Unangst-Rufenacht, Rural Vermont

12:00-12:20pm: Closing/Reflections