We are happy to share some reading ideas to get you excited and prepare you for the range of topics covered at Taking Root on October 28th at UVM – take a look! For more information about the Symposium, please refer to last week’s post.
Innovative work happening in Vermont’s food system
Career paths of many of Vermont’s leading entrepreneurs and thinkers
Resources available at each campus for students to pursue food systems-relevant coursework as well as food-related employment
Current food-related job opportunities; students will also have time to network directly with some Vermont employers in the food industry.
And let’s not forget about lunch!
Eat the Loop Supper celebrates innovative production practices, featuring Vermont producers who “close-the-loop” through the creation of their product. From waste-free production to soil health management, Vermonters are leading the way in innovative practices. Meet the producers and fill your bellies with the “loop.”
Are you a Vermont college student interested in attending? Here’s what you need to know:
We are looking for student representation from all Vermont campuses. We also have limited space for this event. If you are interested in attending, please email Annie Rowell at email@example.com.
Registration costs $25 for the full day, 9am-4pm.
I am excited to attend the Taking Root Student Symposium at UVM because I was inspired by Ben Hewitt’s book ‘The Town that Food Saved’ when I was introduced to it as an undergrad. Also, I will be looking to find employment soon, so getting to learn more about current food-related positions and Vermont-based employers is a great opportunity. Overall, I can’t wait to meet people with similar passions as me and people who want to learn more!
– Ann Chiarenzelli, UVM Food Systems Master Student & Taking Root attendee
The statewide college student gathering is a perfect opportunity for our students in our learning community “A Call to Action: Building Sustainable Communities”. […] The symposium lands at a perfect place and time to support our goals; we hope that many students, faculty and staff from other Vermont colleges and universities attend.
– Ellen Hill, Faculty, Northern Vermont University at Johnson
Here is a glimpse of some of the panelists, producers, and employers you can expect to see there!
It’s hard to believe it’s already September – and even harder to believe with 96 degrees headed our way tomorrow. Nevertheless, campuses are once again a whirlwind of activity and we have piles and piles of updates for everyone, including this one here!
For the past two years, Vermont First has hosted a UVM Food Systems Graduate Student for a year-long fellowship. This graduate student does the critical behind-the-scenes work on our detailed local purchasing tracking system, is a member of the Vermont First Advisory Board, and this year will be very involved in planning for our very first Taking Root Student Symposium (much much more to come on this exciting development).
We couldn’t be more excited to announce that Ann Chiarenzelli is our 2018-19 Fellow. Read on to learn a little more about our newest team member, in her own words! Welcome, Ann!
I graduated in 2016 with a B.S. in Environmental Psychology from St. Lawrence University. My passion for regenerative agriculture began when I volunteered at Bittersweet, a small diversified farm and continued on to intern with GardenShare, a food security non-profit. Over the past year, I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County in New York as the 4-H STEM Educator and Outreach VISTA. There, I worked to form curriculum in Animal Science, Environmental Science, Permaculture and more. This year, I am excited to pursue a graduate degree in Food Systems at UVM and be a Fellow with Vermont First.
Two weeks ago, we received the bittersweet news that Peaslee’s Potatoes, one of our celebrated farm partners, is selling the farm. Peaslee’s leaves a 90-year legacy of selling potatoes grown in the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. We started working with Peaslee’s three years ago after our Scaling Up Forum, a Vermont First event focused on educating and connecting producers with our Vermont supply chain. At the time, Peaslee’s was in their third generation of ownership, and to their knowledge, the only female-owned potato farm in the country. They were looking to increase market share and were looking for new partnerships with Vermont businesses.
With Peaslee’s long history of selling to wholesale markets, putting the pieces together to buy from them was fairly straight-forward. We identified our potato usage by variety to inform their crop planning, and brought in our distributor, Black River Produce, who already carried Peaslee’s potatoes to help fulfill our statewide demand. In adding their products into distribution, Peaslee’s became available to many other Vermont food establishments, including the five Skinny Pancake restaurants throughout VT and western-NH. In addition to buying potatoes directly from Peaslee’s, the University of Vermont was looking for a fresh cut diced potato, as UVM didn’t have the time to process all of their potatoes in-house. The Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick, VT, made a diced potato for institutions, also sourcing their potatoes from Peaslee’s. We promoted our relationship with Peaslee’s at many regional and national conferences, and the relationship was featured in a Vermont Farm to Institution ‘Best Practice’ report in 2016. Over the years, Peaslee’s also became heavily involved in the food security movement with the Vermont Foodbank and Salvation Farms.
As Peaslee’s Vermont markets continued to grow, most people didn’t know that third generation owner Karen Guile-Caron was also the owner of an equine therapy business, Stable Connections. While running two businesses is no surprise to most Vermonters living in rural areas, that doesn’t make the task any easier. In addition to running her own business, with the combination of not having a 4th generation transition option while also looking out for her mother’s best interest, Karen knew she had a tough decision on the horizon. “Selling to Sodexo and the Vermont Food Venture Center [in Hardwick, VT] these past few years put us in the position of being able to sell the farm on our own terms,” shares Karen.
To honor her grandparents and her father Bert, Karen preserved the home farm of 64-acres of river-bottom land through the Vermont Land Trust, ensuring their family land will always stay part of Vermont’s working lands.
Succession planning can take many forms. For three generations, the Peaslee’s followed the more traditional path of the succession plan, passing the farm down from generation to generation. This succession takes a different approach, but ultimately keeps the land in production for a new farmer, and allows the family to pick the time for a graceful exit.
We could not be more grateful for our partnership with Peaslee Vermont Potatoes these past three years. There is no denying that this story is ridden with emotional undertones, but we honor the tough decision and celebrate the history of what the Peaslee’s have contributed to the state of Vermont for almost a century.
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.