Producer and Processor Association Support

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Producer & Processor Association Report Complete

One of the information gaps identified in Chapter 4, Section 4: Food System Business Planning and Technical Assistance, was an understanding of the needs, interests, administrative and leadership capacities, challenges, and opportunities facing Vermont’s producer and processor associations. Producer and processor associations are membership-based organizations that may provide peer-to-peer learning opportunities, policy advocacy, technical assistance, industry education, and marketing suppor

The Producer and Processor Association Support Task Force was created to address the needs of these industry association. The task force worked with VSJF staff member Jake Claro to interview and analyze the interests, administrative and leadership capacity, challenges and opportunities of Vermont’s producer and processor organizations. Results of this survey are being used to to help determine what can be done to better support the development and functioning of producer and processor organizations. 

The challenges faced by the 15 producer/processor associations interviewed for At a Turning Point: Strengthening Vermont’s Producer and Processor Associationsoccurred during a time of significant market growth and public interest in local food and Vermont products. This underlines the critical need to nurture strong producer/processor associations that can actively advance the interests of Vermont food producers and processors. The challenge for many associations is converting the passion and knowledge of its membership into sustained organizational stability, with the added challenge of doing so with constrained budgets and administrative capacity.

  • A combination of small pools of board participants who cycle in and out of officer positions combined with a lack of term limits creates a dynamic that leaves leaders susceptible to burn-out and the association susceptible to stagnation.
  • A common issue amongst associations was not clearly articulating membership benefits on their websites.
  • The long-term fiscal integrity, specifically examining revenue diversification opportunities and membership rates needs to be addressed.
  • Trade associations are generally not adept at creating unified responses to policy developments or current events that effect their respective sectors.
  • Seven of the 15 associations expressed a need for either a new website, consultation on how to use websites effectively, difficulty with using existing content management systems, or advice on how to use social media more effectively.
  • A major finding of the interviews is the critical support role played be service provider organizations like UVM Extension, VAAFM, and NOFA Vermont.

A number of important needs relating to governance, membership development, dues and budgets, and branding emerged over the course of the interviews. The results of this report provide important information for addressing three goals of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan:

After this report was originally published in October 2013, VSJF and the Vermont Agriculture Development Program pursued and received funding from the Working Lands Enterprise Fund to work with associations to build capacity. The program will offer 9 in-depth half day group training sessions over an 18-month period covering organizational development, financial sustainability, policy development, and branding and website development.

Contact: Jake Claro,