Vermont boasts more state-inspected cheese producers per capita than any other state in the nation — close to one cheese maker for 13,000 people — generating more than $657 million in annual revenue. Vermont cheese makers create superior quality cheeses, winning national and international awards in numbers disproportionate to the size of our state. It takes ten pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese, making cheese a more consistently profitable option than fluid milk for dairy farmers. Vermont’s small dairy farms, challenging terrain, and short growing seasons create a disadvantage for Vermont dairy farmers relative to other national dairy producers in the commodity market but can be used as an advantage for value-added producers. Environmental concerns and low milk prices continue to be a struggle for many dairy farmers; however, dairy farms and related processing are central to Vermont’s landscape and identity (see Dairy brief, Goats brief). A viable future for Vermont dairy needs to be premised on a strategy that compensates for these challenges and leverages Vermont strengths.
Farm to Plate 2.0 Strategic Plan Vermont Food System Plan Issue Brief: Business and Technical Assistance
Water quality regulations, market changes, low farm gate prices, and increased competition are all challenging the profitability and future viability of Vermont farms and food businesses across most production types. Working with business and technical assistance service providers is an effective way to strengthen a business in good times and work through various options during challenging times. Vermont’s agricultural and food business and technical assistance network is well established and nationally renowned. However, additional effort, investment, and personnel are needed to ensure programs and providers keep up with the rapidly evolving needs of the agricultural and food sector (e.g., succession planning, dairy supply chain disruptions), so that they are able to continue to provide relevant, high-level, valuable services to businesses across the range of production types, scales, and markets.
Apples in Vermont are behind only dairy and maple in total annual crop value. Since the 1990s, Vermont’s share of all apples sold to eastern U.S. wholesale markets has decreased. Apple acreage fell from approximately 3,500 acres in 2001 to 1,700 acres in 2017. Local sales at pick-your-own and farm stand sales have increased, and cider markets have grown, but have not replaced lost volume nor revenue from wholesale sales. Some Vermont orcharding communities are seeing a loss of economic activity from crop sales and farm employment and the disenfranchisement of growers. Without supportive policies and more investment in marketing, technical assistance, and supply chain coordination, Vermont growers will continue to lose out to growers in regions where larger concentrations of orchards have the advantage in efficiency, modernization, and infrastructure.
Agritourism is a promising sub-sector of Vermont’s agricultural economy, encompassing direct-to-consumer sales of local food (e.g., farm stands, pick-your-own), agricultural education (e.g., school visits and workshops on farms), hospitality (e.g., overnight farm stays), recreation (e.g., hunting, horseback riding), and entertainment (e.g., hayrides, harvest festivals). Agritourism enterprises allow farms to diversify their operations while preserving their core production model and the working landscape, retaining or creating additional jobs, and maintaining farming traditions. At the same time, the public becomes educated about the importance of agriculture to a community’s economic base, quality of life, history, and culture. However, opening a farm to visitors increases liability exposure and requires skills beyond food production, such as marketing and customer service.
Properly capitalized farms and food businesses are critical for a healthy food system. Food system businesses need different kinds of capital depending on their stage of growth, scale of operation, and the markets into which they sell. In part due to the aging of our population, Vermont is experiencing an unprecedented generational transfer of farmland and food businesses. We need to develop new business models, and support access to affordable farmland for new and beginning farmers and young entrepreneurs to take over food businesses, all of which require significant capital and business acumen for success. Critical to this process is connecting the next generation of values-driven investors with opportunities to support farms, food producers, and food system businesses, through a variety of capital provider organizations and through programs that educate new investors.
Small Bites is intended to connect & share your valued work. We at Farm to Plate know producers, distributors & stores are front & center in helping keep communities safely connected to meet immediate, pressing & ever-changing needs in this uncertain time. Thank you to all the farmers, producers, distributors & suppliers who spoke with us providing first hand information for this update. Your insider-view has been so helpful in this uncertain time.
The Food Access Cross Cutting Team’s Food Justice Committee has created this tool for individuals, communities, businesses and organizations to explore how their activities support improving food access. There are many approaches to addressing the problems of hunger and food insecurity, including hunger awareness, hunger relief, food justice, right to food, and food sovereignty. We believe these are complementary; a variety of approaches are necessary and we are not trying to imply that every organization should try to ‘do it all’. At the same time, we believe that organizations focusing on a single approach are likely to increase their effectiveness by considering additional approaches, or partnering with organizations that use other approaches. This tool is meant to serve as a way for individuals, communities, businesses and organizations in Vermont to: • Celebrate, support and appreciate the work that is being done to offer equal access to nutritious, culturally appropriate food for all. • Appreciate the variety of roles necessary to create and sustain a healthy, equitable food system. • Explore different ways to promote food access throughout the food system and explore new ways of intervening in the system. • Understand the breadth of approaches into improving food access in Vermont’s food system. • Identify areas…
Over the past few years, the Farm to Plate Network Local Food Access Planning Task Force has brought together a wide variety of expertise on how communities and municipalities can work to increase food access and recently released Local Planning for Food Access: A Toolkit for Vermont’s Communities. In this guide we identify and discuss a wide variety of food access strategies, potential partners and allies, and case studies from around the state. We’ve also collected dozens of other decisionmaking guides and resources for the implementation of specific types of project, available in the Appendix. We’re so impressed with the number of communities who are thinking about food access, for the long term as well as filling urgent needs, in this current pandemic. While we hope our Toolkit will be useful, we also want to be able to help even more communities, more rapidly. So, our project team is making ourselves available for one-on-one consultations with communities who are starting to think through a food access project -- whether that’s starting a community garden or farm, helping your food shelf connect with local producers, supporting home food production, or any other innovative strategies you’re thinking of. Or if you want to…
Between March 15th and April 11th, more than 78,000 Vermonters filed unemployment claims, with a projected unemployment rate of 22.9%. This brief includes the experiences and perspectives of food and coronavirus specifically for Vermonters who have been furloughed, had a loss of hours or income, or lost their job. This brief is part of a three-part series highlighting the results from an online survey launched in Vermont on March 29th (less than a week after the order to “Stay home, stay safe”) through Front Porch Forum, social media ads, media coverage, and community partners. The survey was open for two weeks and received a total of 3,251 responses.
This brief is part of a three-part series highlighting the results from an online survey launched in Vermont on March 29th (less than a week after the order to “Stay home, stay safe”) through Front Porch Forum, social media ads, media coverage, and community partners. The survey was open for two weeks and received a total of 3,251 responses. This brief provides a summary of results from respondents experiencing food insecurity. Food insecurity was measured using the USDA’s validated six-item household food security survey module. Respondents were classified as food insecure if their answers indicated they experienced low or very low food security either in the 12 months before the coronavirus outbreak (n=541) and/or since the coronavirus outbreak (n=705). Excluding the overlap in these categories, a total of 817 respondents (27.1% of all respondents) experienced food insecurity sometime in the last 12 months. For detailed information on the full results from all respondents or from those who experienced a job disruption, please see the separate briefs dedicated to those topics. Additional analyses are ongoing and future articles will explore these topics in greater detail.