Seven Days feature story about the Abenaki Land Link Project
A collection of resources aimed at providing support for farmers, businesses and organizations in the food system during COVID-19.
The results of UVM's third survey of Vermonters about the impact of COVID-19 on food security and systems is now available. This data was collected in August and September 2020, and the attached research brief details the key results. This most recent survey of 600 Vermonters, representative on race, ethnicity and income across the state, highlight continued challenges, but also some positive outcomes. Key findings include: - Nearly 30% of Vermont households experienced food insecurity at some point since the pandemic - Households more likely to be food insecure include low income households, households with children, households with a job disruption, and respondents without a college degree - 1/3 of respondent households used food assistance programs since COVID-19, an overall 18% increase in food assistance program use since before the pandemic - Diet quality has been impacted since COVID-19- 25% of respondents are eating fewer fruits and vegetables and 50% of households with food insecurity report eating fewer fruits and vegetables - Concerns and challenges about food access have mostly gone down since March 2020, with the exception that Vermonters are more concerned about the cost of food (71% concerned) - Self food reliance is increasing- 42% of respondents did some…
Vermont Agriculture & Food System Plan 2021-2030 Vermont Food System Plan Issue Brief: Agriculture and Food Policy
Public policy is generally described as a system of laws, regulatory measures, courses of action, and funding priorities concerning a given topic, promulgated by a government entity or its representatives. Existing agriculture and food policy in Vermont seeks to strike a balance between farm viability, maintaining the working landscape, and protecting environmental and public health. It is critical that Vermont’s food and agriculture policies continually evolve to best support food and farming systems that benefit the public at large, while allowing Vermont agricultural and food producers to live healthy lives, produce high-quality food, and operate thriving businesses in their communities.
Farm-fresh eggs have long been a popular choice for consumers looking to support local farms, and an inexpensive source of high-quality protein. Eggs have a relatively low cost of entry for diversified farmers looking to add a new small-scale enterprise. While demand is generally high, farmers have often found limited profitability due to lack of efficiency in production and high feed costs. As a result, many diversified farmers experiment with selling eggs for a period of time but not many have scaled up to a commercial level. Significant opportunity exists for Vermont farmers to expand their egg operations in a way that is complementary to their other products and markets.
Sales of heritage, local, pastured, organic, and/or managed outdoor pork in Vermont grew 396% between 2002 and 2017 to $1.86 million annually. Despite this growth and interest in Vermont-grown pork, Vermont swine producers are challenged by high grain prices, little existing swine infrastructure, and the need to access swine genetics that provide efficient growth rates while meeting consumer expectations for consistent quality and flavor. Whether direct marketing to households or institutions in Vermont, or selling live animals into larger regional outlets, adding market value to Vermont pork through production practices or end-product attributes represents an opportunity for swine farmers of different scales and situations, but will require focused coordination to grow smoothly and consistently.
Sheep and their products – meat, milk, and fiber — were Vermont’s first agricultural commodity and still have a significant role to play in the state’s landscape. These small ruminants can take full advantage of Vermont’s unruly topography and mixed vegetation in a way larger animals cannot. Currently, raw sheep products are imported into the state to meet demand for value-added processing, a sure signal that there is room for growth. Slaughterhouses import lamb for retail, cheese makers import milk for unique artisanal blend cheeses, fine western fiber is blended with coarser local fiber in production manufacturing of soft yarns. With comparatively low capital investment requirements, starting up a sheep operation can be an attractive agricultural endeavor.
Vermont Agriculture & Food System Plan 2021-2030 Vermont Food System Plan Market Brief: Major Metropolitan Markets
Vermont currently has 6,800 farms and 1.2 million acres in agricultural production, with a farm-gate value of roughly $781 million dollars, and in 2017, Vermont’s food manufacturers generated $3 billion in economic value. These food and beverage businesses are essential to the cultural and economic fabric of our rural economy. Given the limited population of Vermont, many agricultural business owners rely on populations outside of Vermont to make purchases and sustain their business. Without the support of regional consumer markets, the growth and earning potential of Vermont farms and food businesses will be limited and this important sector will see stagnation or begin to shrink in size.
Vermont Agriculture & Food System Plan 2021-2030 Vermont Food System Plan Product Brief: Specialty Foods
Vermont specialty foods are an important subset of the state’s overall value-added product market. Food manufacturing is the second-largest manufacturing industry in Vermont, with $3 billion in economic output. Specialty foods are considered unique, high-quality food items typically produced in smaller quantities than their mass-market counterparts. As such, they may command a higher price point, though increasingly specialty food providers compete against less-expensive, mass-produced brands. Many Vermont specialty food companies have grown to be nationally recognized brands. These enterprises create diverse employment opportunities including manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and sales. They are also an avenue for business owners to contribute to the state’s food system—ideally through sourcing local raw ingredients—and economic development. Additionally, specialty food items are an important diversification tool for some farmers, providing a critical year-round revenue stream either from the sale of ingredients to another producer or from manufacture and sale of their own products.
Vermont Agriculture & Food System Plan 2021-2030 Vermont Food System Plan Product Brief: Meat: Slaughter, Processing, and Products
It is critical to support Vermont’s slaughter and processing industries in order for Vermont’s 3,6001 livestock and 256 poultry producers to meet consumer demand in local and regional markets. Slaughter, processing, and farm production of livestock for meat are interdependent. For example, unless processing services are expanded, slaughter capacity will not be maximized, and producers can’t maintain or expand their operations, or capitalize on value-added products. Job growth over multiple sectors will be hindered without industry expansion, but additional workforce training is needed to develop the highly skilled employees who could support industry growth. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in the national meat supply chain that may open up additional regional market opportunities for the Vermont meat industry.