What does this mean? Besides being the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month, this idea perfectly captures what we at Vermont First aim to do. We are going further with food by not just prioritizing local, but also prioritizing seasonal local purchasing and consumption. Making the conscious choice to eat local food in-season means that you introduce a tasty variety into your diet and also support Vermont’s local economy and working lands.
When you choose to eat with the season, you introduce a greater variety of produce into your diet which supports gut health, decrease your risk of heart disease, increase folic acid (helps build red blood cells!), and much more. Your body will thank you.
You choose to keep money in the community. Your decision to purchase local Vermont products creates jobs, strengthens the flow of funds into your immediate community, and keeps Vermont’s working lands working. A recent UVM study found that every dollar spent on Vermont grown and manufactured food generated an additional $0.38 to $0.68 of value for the local economy. Your neighbors and friends will thank you.
Ok, but how?
Maybe you aren’t sure which crops are best in which seasons, don’t fret! Use these staples as a jump start as you begin thinking about seasonal consumption:
Winter: beets and cabbage
Spring: tomatoes and parsnips
Summer: cucumbers and peppers
Fall: potatoes and squash
Looking for more? Check out the full seasonal availability list here and our Vermont seasonal crop flyers below!
And finally, when we run out of local supply, we often don’t need to look further than our neighboring states to fill the gaps. Healthcare Without Harm‘s Nourished by New England campaign highlights the availability of regional products.
You have the power to shift consumption towards local and seasonal favor (and flavor!). Eating local produce in Vermont doesn’t mean eating only apples and carrots. Go further with food – enjoy a diverse diet all year round, supporting both the needs of your body and your larger community!
As she tallied up the final numbers, Sodexo’s Vermont First Coordinator Annie Rowell already anticipated the decrease in Sodexo’s local purchases for 2017. Launched in 2014, Vermont First is Sodexo’s commitment to increase local food purchasing at all of Sodexo’s Vermont accounts, which helps achieve Vermont Farm to Plate’s goals of increasing instiutional consumption (Goal 2) and increasing local food production (Goal 7). Vermont First is also aligned with Farm to Plate’s local food definition: Raw products grown in Vermont or within a 30-mile radius around the state borders or food manufactured within the state.
Over the past three years, Vermont First has become a revered best practice in institutional local food procurement, setting the standard for how to strategically leverage statewide institutional spend, actively engage and collaborate with statewide stakeholders, and transparently track local purchasing. “VT First has forged a path for thoughtful, intentional, and systematic calculation and communication of institution’s local food procurement,” shares Abbey Willard, Food System Chief for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, as well as a member of the Vermont First Advisory Board. Why, then, was Rowell not surprised to see a downward trend for Vermont First’s local purchasing between 2016 and 2017?
Abbie Nelson of NOFA-VT/VT FEED and member of the Vermont First Advisory Board, explained the 2017 findings best: “The reality is [Vermont First] is getting penalized in the numbers for getting better at tracking.” Every year, the Vermont First Advisory Board (VFAB), made up of fourteen Vermont food system stakeholders, reviews Sodexo’s Vermont food purchasing totals and identifies opportunity areas for purchasing more Vermont products. Over the past year, Vermont First dove deeper into the supply chains of regional brands Hood, Cabot Creamery, and Black River Meats’ Northeast Raised Beef to explore opportunities for Vermont producers. After participating in this process as a member of the VFAB, Jake Claro, Director of Farm to Plate, observed, “From the very beginning, Sodexo’s Vermont First has been an exemplar of transparency and integrity, a model for how institutions can accurately track. Vermont First’s willingness to be transparent in their accounting and open to critical feedback reflects a true commitment to Vermont farm and food businesses and the food economy of Vermont.”
Black River Meat’s Northeast Raised (NER) beef brand was created on the scalability of a regional model, while also remaining focused on bringing more Vermont beef producers into their folds. In 2015 and 2016, VT First counted 100% of NER beef as local, as the animals were either raised or slaughtered and processed in the state. Sodexo significantly increase NER beef purchases during that time. In reviewing VT First totals, however, it became evident to the VFAB that Farm to Plate’s definition for how raw, cut beef should be counted for ‘local’ was unclear. Farm to Plate’s intent was that all raw, cut animal protein could only count as local if the animal was raised (or spent a significant portion of the animal’s life) in Vermont, regardless of whether the animal was slaughtered and processed in the state. While all animals in the Black River Meats’ NER beef supply chain are slaughtered and processed in Springfield, VT, 20% of the animals were Vermont-raised in 2017. (As a note, 100% of Black River Meats’ Vermont Grown lamb and pork is raised in Vermont.)
As such, in October 2017, Vermont First modified their tracking to count only 20% of NER beef purchases as local. While this change negatively affects Vermont First’s 2017 totals, it means Vermont First will be able to track the growth in number of Vermont raised animals in NER’s supply chain over the long term.
“Better tracking. More transparency. At the end of the day, that’s what counts!” Peter Allison, Executive Director of Farm to Institution New England, sums up.
Much like NER Beef, Hood and Cabot Creamery are brands that are dependent on the regional infrastructure needed to aggregate, process, and distribute dairy products. Dairy is Vermont’s largest agricultural industry, and Vermont produces 63% of the milk in New England (Vermont Milk Matters Report, 2016). Tracking aggregated fluid milk volume back to individual farms is a laborious and complicated process, but necessary to understand how much of the milk in supply chain of companies like Hood and Cabot comes from Vermont farms. With the assistance of Hood and Cabot, Vermont First narrowed in on the Hood and Cabot products that meet the Vermont First definition – either produced or manufactured in Vermont +30 miles.
Overall, more than $250,000 of beef and dairy spend in 2017 no longer qualifies as local for Vermont First. As a result, Vermont First’s 2017 local purchasing totals were $2.6 million, decreasing from 15.5% local in 2016 to 13.74% local in 2017. While the numbers show a decrease, the 2017 totals tell a more accurate story of the volume of products purchased that were either produced or manufactured in Vermont. “The purchasing numbers reported by the program are not window dressing, but an honest accounting of progress and an integral piece of feedback Sodexo management at all levels uses to inform purchasing decisions and improve institutional market access for Vermont farm and food businesses,” said Claro.
Looking ahead to 2018, Vermont First is focused on identifying and purchasing ‘Priority Products’ that are best-suited for Vermont production and that currently or have potential to be used in institutional dining. The growing list of Priority Products will inform chefs which products are grown or manufactured locally and alert producers about the local products Sodexo is looking for.
Priority Products are identified with support from the VT First Advisory Board, Sodexo’s local produce distributors, and Vermont’s Farm and Forest Viability Program, among others. For instance, one priority product that was developed in response to institutional markets seeking a 100% Vermont-raised beef product was Precision Valley Specialty Meats’ hormone and growth promotant-free beef, which is a ground beef product made from transitional dairy cattle (cattle that are no longer productive for dairy). Precision Valley offers Vermont dairy farms a reliable premium for cattle that would otherwise be sold at highly-fluctuating regional cattle auction prices. Currently, all Precision Valley cattle come from dairy farms in Addison County and are slaughtered and processed in Springfield, VT.
Eden Specialty Ciders is, well, east of Eden. In the Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Eden Specialty Ciders calls West Charleston their home, about 40 miles east of Eden, Vermont.
Last week, Chef Sandi from Champlain College and I were joined by chefs from Vermont restaurants like Misery Loves Company and farms like Vermont Cranberry Company to learn why Eden’s ice ciders offer some of Vermont’s most genuine terroir.
Read more about our visit at DigInVT.com …and while you’re there, take a minute to peruse other taste of Vermont experiences to check out every day of the year!
It’s hard to believe it is officially the end of the fall semester! As we wrap up the semester – before I get to intended topic of this post – I would be remiss if I didn’t point you to a few stories from this past semester that involve eating invasive species, the reemergence of the coveted UVM Dairy Bar, Vermont spuds on VPR, to name a few. Check them out here – we’ve been busy!
The real crux of this post is to highlight two folks behind the scenes in the Vermont First world. In fact, to give each their proper due, I will break this post into two. This fall, we launched Vermont First Student Reps, an internship program for students at our Vermont campuses to learn more about Vermont First, sustainable procurement in Vermont and beyond, and to represent the student voice on each campus. Today’s post highlights one of our Student Reps, and stay tuned for the second installment!
We spent some time with Student Rep Flannery Mehigan, a junior at University of Vermont, to learn more about why she is interested in Vermont First and what she does when she’s not focused on her Vermont First responsibilities!
College:University of Vermont
Major/Minor(s): Environmental Studies with minors in Psychological Sciences and Dance
Favorite class this semester:Contact Improvisation, a wonderful form of dance focused on exploration of bodies and their unique relations to space
Favorite Christmas food:My mom makes a delicious Moroccan Spiced Pie with squash, spinach, chickpeas, and a whole slew of amazing spices.
What does ‘local’ mean to you?When I think of local I think of a way to connect people to their homes and surrounding landscapes. When we make the decision to purchase local, we create a tangible and dynamic relationship between food and farmer. In the evening when I prep veggies grown in Vermont for my dinner, I feel overwhelming gratitude for the fact that I can make local a priority in my budget, that I can take the time to try my best to support Vermont producers as I strive to eat seasonally.
What interested you in being a VT First Student Rep?I’m interested in my position as a VT First Student Rep because it has continued to strengthen my perspective on local food systems. There is a whole arrangement of externalities to consider when thinking about bringing local food into institutions like colleges and hospitals – externalities I found myself neglecting to consider before this position. Farm to institution is an amazing movement and I feel immensely grateful to be witnessing it in a place like Vermont.
What have you enjoyed about your experience so far?I have loved my experience as a Student Rep thus far. I have enjoyed being able to think about the complexities of supply chains and consider the difficulties of food access. As a VT First Student Rep I’ve been able to strengthen my perspective of the Vermont food system and continue to foster a deeper connection to how I live and relate to food here.
On Monday, August 28th UVM Dining served up its first scoop of ice cream made with UVM milk since the closure of UVM’s Carrigan Hall, home to the original Dairy Bar from 1950-1995. In collaboration with UVM CREAM (Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management), St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, and Wilcox Ice Cream, the Davis Center is now home to a new ice cream vision.
How did we bring it back? We prioritized Vermont First. UVM Dining has committed to working with farmers, distributors, processors, and supply-chain players in Vermont before we look elsewhere. It’s all based in our pledge to bring farm to our institution. The UVM ice cream journey starts with the high-quality milk from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ very own CREAM program. Located at the Miller Research Educational Center on Spear Street in Burlington, Vermont, CREAM is a student operated dairy farm. With 34 Holstein and Jersey cows, this superior herd has plenty of milk to spare for our ice cream. Through the hard work of both cows and CREAM students, the milk continues its journey to St. Albans Coop Creamery in St. Albans, Vermont.
St. Albans Coop has been making dairy products for nearly a century. With the arrival of the milk from UVM CREAM, farmers create a delicious ice cream mix. That mix will soon find its way to Wilcox Premium Ice Cream in East Arlington, Vermont.
Why Wilcox? Howard Wilcox, ’66, Animal Science, first learned to make ice cream from his father. At UVM, Howard was one of the few students making ice cream in the original Carrigan Hall Dairy Bar. Today Wilcox Premium Ice Cream uses pieces of equipment from the original Dairy Bar in their operation. Howard, Christina, Craig and the rest of the Wilcox crew take the ice cream mix made with milk from UVM CREAM to create a variety of fantastic flavors. From “Sweet CREAM” to “Melody Mint Chocolate Chip” there’s a flavor for everyone. A portion of sales from the ice cream sold on campus even makes its way back in support of the CREAM program.
But that’s not all! This space is also home to a new smoothie selection. Made with organic fruit and utilizing Fair Trade bananas, we recognize ice cream isn’t for everyone. Whether you’re in the mood for Maple Blueberry (made with pure Vermont maple syrup from UVM’s Proctor Maple Research Center) or Triple Berry, stop by the Dairy Bar to fuel your day.
We’ve worked hard to keep the tradition of UVM ice cream alive, so head to the 2nd floor of the Davis Center to give it a taste yourself.
The University of Vermont’s much anticipated Central Campus Residence and Dining Hall, under construction for two years, will open on August 26 when students return to campus.
The dining hall portion of the new building is one of the most innovative in American higher education, designed to promote student engagement with open kitchen formats, live demonstrations and digital screens that provide nutrition advice and tell the story of UVM’s commitment to local food.
The sun was shining through the rolling hills of the Northeast Kingdom as members of the UVM Dining team and Vermont First began a day of farm tours. Every summer dining staff takes time out of busy work schedules to engage with the farmers that help bring food from farm to dining hall table.
Our first stop was Butterworks Farm. Located in Westfield, Vermont, Butterworks Farm started in 1976. Today you will find about 50 Jersey cows grazing through endless fields of grass. From Onyx, a member of the Gem Family, to Chipotle, a feisty Spice Family member, each happy healthy cow has a name and a family unit. 100% grass-fed and Vermont Organic, Butterworks Farm makes products from Whole Plain Yogurt to Orange Sunshine Kefir. Our team was lucky enough to get a taste!
Full of delicious yogurt and pictures of Butterworks’ beautiful herd of cows, we headed to Craftsbury to check in with Pete’s Greens, a certified Organic four-season vegetable farm. Inspired by farms from around the world, Pete’s has gleaned a number of innovative ideas, including expanding the width of their planting rows to require less passes of the tractor and therefore less energy expended. From a new tomato greenhouse, better equipped for heavy Vermont snowfall, to endless rows of red leaf butter lettuce, Pete’s Greens pursues its goal that Vermont can feed itself. We ended our tour with a quick lunch at Pete’s Farmstand, a building complete with a living roof and veggies galore!
Have you ever seen a barn with a moon mural? A moon made of cheese suspended in space? Look no further than Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vermont. Driving past the cheese-inspired galaxy barn, we headed into the Cellars. Nestled into the hillside and stocked with seven cheese vaults, the Cellars at Jasper Hill age and care for cheesy favorites like Cabot’s Clothbound and Harbison, a favorite of UVM Dining’s Chef Sarah. We toured the vaults and were lucky enough to end the hour with a tasting of a few of their divine cheeses.
Finally, we ventured from the Cellars towards our last stop of the day, the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, Vermont. A non-profit with a mission to build and engage a healthy Vermont food system, the Center for an Agricultural Economy has kitchens for anyone, from entrepreneurs with a bold new idea to the Just Cut Program, which helps institutions (like us!) purchase minimally processed vegetables to ease food preparation later. Jasper Hill Farm also holds space here, and our team was able to witness an exciting part of the cheese making process—fresh curds being poured into molds.
Partnerships and relationships of farms throughout the Northeast Kingdom became even clearer as our day of farm tours folded to a close. From Butterworks Farm’s trucks cross-docking in the Center for an Agricultural Economy’s warehouse space, to Pete’s Greens partnering with Jasper Hill Cheese to create a local pork product under the label “VT 99 Meats,” to Jasper Hill Cheese leasing space at the Center for an Agricultural Economy to make cheese, these farms and organizations exemplify the Vermont ethic of being a good neighbor and building resilient systems.
Be sure to keep an eye out for these Vermont farmers and producers next time you’re at one of our Vermont campuses!
Another school year has come to an end. The flurry of end of semester projects and events is all-consuming and unfortunately does not leave us adequate time to say proper thank yous and goodbyes.
This past year, there was an additional person working behind the scenes on Vermont First, involved in everything from the trenches of data to presenting to the Vermont First Advisory Board to mapping out the regional dairy supply chain. Katie Horner (pictured on far right) was the first UVM Food Systems Graduate Fellow to dedicate her fellowship year to focusing on Vermont First. Her passion for food and food systems (in her “free” time she and her partner run a cafe, put on local burger nights for 500+ people at Bread and Butter Farm, to just name a few!), vibrant personality, and great attention to detail made her a real pleasure to work with.
By Bridget Dorsey, UVM Student Co-Chair, Real Food Working Group
The University of Vermont announced on Monday the achievement of the Real Food Campus Commitment, a university pledge signed in 2012 to track and increase responsible food sourcing on campus. The university is meeting the 20 percent Real Food milestone three years early, having originally set out to meet this goal by 2020.
To build on this momentum, UVM has renewed its commitment with a new goal of 25 percent by 2020.
The Real Food Challenge is a nationwide student-led campaign to shift institutional purchasing to more sustainable and community-based food production. The national organization offers tools to audit university dining systems and support the procurement of qualifying products.
Food qualifies as “Real” if it meets requirements in one or more of the following categories: fair, ecologically sound, local, or humane. These qualifiers are developed by Real Food National Standards Council, and are used by all institutions that participate in the Real Food Challenge.
UVM has been a national leader for the Real Food Challenge since 2009, as one of the first schools to pilot the calculator tool that students use to audit university purchasing and determine the percentage that qualifies as Real. In 2012, UVM Interim President John Bramley signed the Real Food Campus Commitment, making UVM the fifth school in the country, and the first public land grant institution, to pledge to purchase 20 percent Real Food by 2020.
Nationwide, 80 colleges and universities have signed the Real Food Campus Commitment and well over 200 campuses utilize the calculator to track purchases in their dining systems.
Of these, only about a dozen have met or surpassed 20 percent, and UVM is the first land grant university to do so.
Tlaloc Vasquez, a Real Food Challenge National Organizer, believes UVM’s success is at least partially attributable to the fact that UVM’s contract with Sodexo, which runs UVM Dining, includes an obligation to meet the Real Food Campus Commitment. “The corresponding rapid pace by which the campus has shifted purchasing is notable.”
“UVM Dining is proud to be a partner in such a progressive campaign for food system reform,” said Emily Portman, sustainability coordinator for Sodexo. “We’ve been successful at creating a culture of transparency around food procurement and strengthening many of our local partnerships.”
Running concurrent to Real Food purchasing is UVM Dining’s Vermont First initiative, which supports local economies through the prioritization of products made in-state.
The combined success of value-based purchasing derives from the shared goals between students, administrators, dining services, and the nationwide platform.
“This achievement is a testament to the power of collaboration and student leadership. It’s been inspiring for me to watch the students pursue food system reform by researching products, auditing UVM purchases, and upholding momentum even when the project ran into roadblocks,” said Alison Nihart, assistant to the Food Systems Initiative at UVM.
“I joined the Real Food movement because I wanted to make a measurable impact on the food system,” say Gina Clithero says of her role as student co-chair for the multi-stakeholder Real Food Working Group. “It’s exciting to see that come to fruition.”
The judges panel had no easy task deciding the winning dish at the 3rd Annual Vermont First Localvore Challenge last week. Hosted by last year’s reigning champs, St. Michael’s College, nine Sodexo Vermont campuses gathered together under the auspices of year-long bragging rights to see who would be the 2017 Localvore Champion: the creator of the best dish featuring Vermont ingredients.
As each campus arrived and unveiled their localvore creation, it was clear that each chef team came to win. While there was an eventual winner, it’s important that the goals of the Challenge are not lost:
Empower our chefs to be creative with their use of local ingredients, especially during a time of year that is typically challenging to source local ingredients in Vermont.
Strengthen partnerships with the local producers we source from, both for the Challenge and for our daily dining operations.
Create the culture of sharing ideas to incorporate new local ingredients or dishes into our regular menus.
Raise student awareness about our Vermont First commitment to buy local products and recognition of our chefs’ culinary skills. A great time for our up-and-coming chefs to demonstrate their prowess in the kitchen!
A rare opportunity for our campus Chefs and General Managers to gather together and meet students from different campuses.
Prepare to get hungry as you scroll through the pictures of each campus’ entry!
Congratulations to all nine campuses who participated, and an additional congratulations to the 2017 Winner – for the second year in a row, St. Michael’s College!
After St. Michael’s College, the results were:
#2 – Lyndon State College
#3 – Castleton State College
#4 – UVM
For additional coverage of the day, check out the following news stories!