Farm Tours: Building Resilience in the Vermont Food System

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.

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Cows happily grazing at Butterworks Farm in Westfield, Vermont. Written on every cow tag just above the number is each cow’s unique name. Photo credit: Flannery Mehigan

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!

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Mike Heald, Christine Lazor, Collin Mahoney, and Hazel of Butterworks Farm were generous enough to send Flannery Mehigan, Emily Portman, and Sarah Langan of UVM Dining home with arms full kefir and yogurt. This photo is in front of Butterworks’ old granary.  Photo credit: Annie Rowell

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!

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Pete’s new four-season tomato greenhouse. Photo credit: Annie Rowell

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.

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A look inside the cheddar vault at Jasper Hill. Photo credit: Annie Rowell

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.

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From left to right: Josh Minot (Center for an Agricultural Economy), Emily Portman (UVM Dining), Flannery Mehigan (UVM Dining), Sarah Langan (UVM Dining), and Connor Gorham (Center for an Agricultural Economy) Photo Credit: Annie Rowell

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!

End of the School Year: A Farewell and Report

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.

Learn more about Katie here!

What better way to show our appreciation of her work than the culmination of her year’s work – the Vermont First Annual Report!

 

 

UVM Achieves 20 Percent ‘Real Food’ Served in Dining Halls, Sets New Goal

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Serving locally-sourced potatoes like Peaslee’s Potatoes helped UVM reach its Real Food Challenge goal three years early. (Photo: Nicole Chicoine)
 April 17, 2017
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.”

Related Links

Sodexo Chefs Create Inspiring Dishes in Localvore Challenge

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!

Castleton
Castleton University’s “Traditional Tonkotsu Ramen” dish, featuring: Misty Knoll Chicken, Vermont Native Pork Belly and Ajitsuke Tamago, Maple Meadow Farm eggs
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Champlain College’s “Vermont Country Bacon Carre in a Festive Chocolate with Maple Foam, featuring: Vermont Smoke & Cure Bacon, Sugarman’s Maple Syrup, and Callebaut Chocolate
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Lyndon State College’s “Grilled Flank Steak Crostini”, featuring: Harward Farm steak, Deer Run Farm bacon, Vermont Butter and Cheese chevre, Green Mountain Farms cream cheese, Sweet Rowen Farmstead Boursin cheese, Deep Root black radishes, and Sugarman’s maple syrup
Norwich
Norwich University’s “Harvest Chicken Salad”, featuring: Misty Knoll Chicken Breast, Pete’s Greens and Cold Hollow Apple Cider
Southern VT college plate
Southern Vermont College’s “Rustic Tortellini in a Hearty Vodka Sauce”, featuring: Vermont Fresh, Champlain Valley Farms’ sausage, Misty Knoll Chicken, Thomas Dairy, Full Sun Oils
St. Michael's
St. Michael’s College “Vermont Classic TV Dinner”, featuring: Black River Meats Vermont grown beef tenderloin medallion, sweet winter squash, Champlain Apple Glass and Sugarman’s Maple popcorn shooter
UVM plate
University of Vermont’s “Vermont Chicken and Waffles”, featuring: Savory waffle made with Burnt Rock Farm butternut squash and sweet potatoes and King Arthur Flour topped with a layer of sweet cream honey butter from Vermont Food Venture Center honey and Vermont Creamery butter and classic fried chicken from Murray’s Chicken. Finished and drizzled with maple bourbon sauce featuring Proctor Maple Research Center’s maple syrup and Mad River Bourbon
vermont tech
Vermont Tech’s “Native Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Wilted Greens”, featuring: Pete’s Greens, Maple Meadow Farm, Cabot Creamery, North Hollow Farms bacon
johnson state
Johnson State College’s “Assorted Eclairs: Spicy Aztec Eclair, Maple Bacon Eclair, and Bismarck Eclair,” featuring: Thomas Dairy heavy cream, Maple Meadow Farm eggs, Lake Champlain chocolates, vermont Smoke & Cure bacon, and Smuggs’ Bourbon

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!

NBC Channel 5: VT Localvore Food Contest Brings the Heat

Burlington Free Press: School Chefs Across Vermont Pull Out Their Best Localvore Chops

My Champlain Valley: St. Michael’s Wins First Place in Localvore Cooking Challenge

Upcoming event: 3rd Annual Vermont First Localvore Challenge

 

You are invited to join us for the

3rd Annual Vermont First Localvore Challenge

Wednesday, March 29, 2017
11:30am to 2:00pm
St. Michael’s College – Green Mountain Dining Room in Alliot Hall

In celebration of Sodexo’s ongoing commitment to Vermont First local food sourcing, nine Vermont Colleges will compete in a Localvore Cooking Challenge hosted by Saint Michael’s College Dining on Wednesday March 29, 2017.
This friendly competition challenges professional and up and coming Sodexo chefs to design menus around foods and products that are native to Vermont. Each campus culinary team will prepare and serve their local dishes to the students during the special lunch at Saint Michael’s College. Students get to vote on their favorite dish. The culinary teams will also be judged on presentation, creativity, technical execution, and guest interaction by guest judges from the Vermont food community.

Our competing colleges include:

  • Castleton University – Castleton, VT
  • Champlain College – Burlington, VT
  • Johnson State College – Johnson, VT
  • Lyndon State College – Lyndonville, VT
  • Norwich University – Northfield, VT
  • St. Michael’s College – Colchester, VT
  • Southern Vermont College – Bennington, VT
  • University of Vermont – Burlington, VT

For additional information please contact: Brian.Roper@sodexo.com

UPDATE: The Local Motive – Farm to Institution

Episode 4: Farm to Institution

About this episode:
Institutions such as schools, universities, camps, hospitals and prisons are places where the food consumer often doesn’t have much choice. This is food intended to feed large volumes, and has to do so with typically small per capita budgets, USDA nutritional requirements and limited labor and equipment resources. To reach Farm to Plate goals in increasing local consumption, these institutions need to choose local food for their consumer. We’ll look at the paths to bringing local food into institutions and the passionate individuals committed to making Farm to Institution a reality.

There are many familiar faces featured in this episode!
Vermont First Advisory Board members: Abbie Nelson, Joe Bossen, and Bill Suhr
Vermont First Leadership Team members: Caylin McKee and Kate Hays
Producers we buy from:Vermont Bean Crafters, Vermont Food Venture Center, Pete’s Greens, Jericho Settlers Farm, Lewis Creek Farm, Champlain Orchards

We are a proud sponsor of the Local Motive, a collaboration between The Skinny Pancake and Vermont PBS that explores the Vermont food system in a six-part series.

Read more about the series here.

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The Local Motive: The Food We Eat Must Come From Somewhere

It’s finally here!
We are a proud sponsor of the Local Motive, a collaboration between The Skinny Pancake and Vermont PBS that explores the Vermont food system in a six-part series. The series launched this past Thursday and a new episode will be aired each week on Vermont PBS.

Watch an episode tonight at 7pm on Vermont PBS Plus.

Read more about the series here.

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Local Vermont Business Helps Bar Holiday Hunger

By Katie Horner, UVM Food Systems Graduate Fellow

In the world of energy bars, there are countless options, and many of those options contain bizarre ingredients that most of us can’t even pronounce. Fortunately, those in need of an energy boost here in the Green Mountain State can ignore the overly abundant, mass-produced products and simply reach for a Garuka Bar. These locally-made, small-batch bars feature raw Vermont honey in a recipe designed to provide the ideal pre-exercise combination of natural carbohydrates and healthy, plant-based fats.

In addition to being a delicious way to fuel up and stave off hunger during a workout or hike, Garuka Bars are also helping stave off hunger for a number of Vermont families this Garuka Bars Promo.jpgholiday season. For the third year in a row, Garuka donated one meal to the Vermont Foodbank for every one of their bars purchased during the week leading up to Thanksgiving; an additional meal was donated for every customer who posted their bar purchase on social media using the hashtag #VTBizCares. This year, the company donated 1,616 holiday meals, an almost 300% increase from the 600 or so meals they were able to donate in 2015. While impressive even out of context, these meal donations become even more important when you consider that an estimated 153,000 Vermonters need to access food shelves and meal service programs each year.

While for many individuals and businesses this kind of philanthropic giving is limited to the holiday season, for Garuka it is a central tenet of the business’ mission. Since its inception in 2011, Garuka has focused on a unique hybrid of local and global social responsibility. While the company focuses on supporting innovative local producers here in Vermont, it also donates 1% of profits to support gorilla conservation efforts in Rwanda. The name of the company translates to ‘return well’ in the national Rwandan language of Kinyarwanda. This concept pervades the company’s social endeavors, such as their partnership with the Vermont Foodbank. For a small business, Garuka has a big impact.

If you ask company founder Mike Rosenberg, this is in part thanks to the support Garuka received from Sodexo over the past five years. Garuka bars are sold at aGaruka Bars.jpglmost every Vermont institution served by Sodexo and at some of the food service provider’s accounts in New Hampshire and Maine. The relationship operates as a two-way street: not only does Sodexo provide a large market for the local energy bars, the bars also align with the goals of Vermont First and the Real Food Challenge, two initiatives that represent core values of many Sodexo accounts in the state. In this way, Garuka exemplifies how local businesses benefit from increased institutional demand for local products.

This begs the question, what is the relationship between local business and addressing hunger in Vermont? According to the Vermont Foodbank website, of 51 donor businesses, about 75% are Vermont-based. When one considers the significant imvermont-foodbankpact that local businesses have on addressing dire problems, like hunger, that affect Vermonters, the mission of Vermont First takes on another dimension. In promoting local products like Garuka Bars, not only is Vermont
First fostering the local Vermont economy; it is also promoting a network of businesses that together are working to help Vermonters in need. So it seems appropriate, at this time of year, to remember the impact we can all have by supporting Vermont businesses, and therefore Vermonters, first.

Scaling Up Local in Maine – See you there?

We couldn’t be more excited about the two upcoming Maine Course Scaling Up Events on November 1st and November 3rd.  Are you a farmer, fishermen, or food processor looking to learn more about selling to institutions in Maine? If so, this event is for you!

Register for the Scaling Up Events

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On November 1st and 3rd the Sodexo in partnership with the University of Maine System will hold the inaugural Scaling Up Events as part of the Maine Course initiative.

This one-day forum is a supply chain training and networking opportunity for growers, processors, and distributors. The goal of this event is to foster collective learning about selling locally grown and/or manufactured products within the commercial and non-commercial food service industry. Sodexo leadership from the state of Maine along with their supply management team will be working together to further this conversation on these very important topics.

In 2015, Sodexo made a commitment to the state of Maine to increase local food purchasing at all of accounts in Maine, a commitment called the Maine Course.  You are invited to come learn more about how Sodexo’s Maine Course commitment will impact local purchasing in Maine and if selling, or increasing current sales, into the food service industry might be the right fit for your operation.

Topics covered are intended to build business to business relationships between the producers, distributors, and buyers in the room, including topics like:

  • How Sodexo’s food procurement works
  • How the University of Maine Orono’s food procurement works
  • Maine Course as a local procurement strategy
  • Trends in the food service industry
  • Regional and national distributor interfacing
  • Approved vendor process
  • Stories from producers about their path in selling to Sodexo

If you are interested in attending, we ask that you register for the event nearest you.

NOTE: The content of the events will be the same at each location therefore you need only attend one date.

Registration for the November 1st event:

https://sodexoscalingupeventnov1.eventbrite.com

 

Registration for the November 3rd event:

https://sodexoscalingupeventnov3.eventbrite.com

Photo Journal: Peaslee’s Vermont Potatoes

 

 

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From left to right: Karen Guile (Peaslee’s Potatoes), James Marsh (Johnson State College Dining Team), Tom Fondakowski (General Manager at Johnson State College), Annie Rowell (Sodexo’s Vermont First), Janice Peaslee (Peaslee’s Potatoes), and Corey Kelley (Johnson State College Dining Team)  Photo Credit: Nicole Chicoine

In 1928, on the eve of the Great Depression, Fred and Gertrude Peaslee set out to find land along the Connecticut River to start a farm.  Settling in Guildhall, Vermont, little did they know they were building a business that would be the livelihood of their family for multi-generations.  Eighty-five years later, Janice Peaslee, Fred and Gertrude’s daughter-in-law,  together with Karen Guile, their granddaughter, own and operate the 250-acre potato farm.

This year, through Vermont First, we identified an opportunity to increase our local potato purchasing in partnership with Peaslee’s Potatoes and our distributor partner Black River Produce.  In our excitement, we made the trek to Guildhall to see the potato crop in full bloom and meet Karen’s family and team.

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Karen Guile showing us their potato storage in the basement of the barn built by her grandfather, Fred, during the Depression.  Take note of the slots meticulously molded in the concrete walls behind her.  They use the same space and system built and designed by Fred Peaslee: after potatoes are harvested and brought back to the barn, the floor boards on the main floor of the barn are taken out and the potatoes are emptied into the barn basement potato bunker, guided by boards inserted into these angled concrete slots. Photo credit: Nicole Chicoine
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The farm doorbell next to the front door of the barn.  In the background, you can see a blurry image of the farm’s refrigerated truck backed up to the loading dock.  Photo credit: Nicole Chicoine
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This year’s potato crop was in full bloom when we visited – fields of white flowers as far as the eye could see. Photo credit: Nicole Chicoine
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Marc Labens, Farm Manager, has been with the farm for twenty two years.  He dug up some red potatoes to see how they are coming along.  “Not too long now,” he said. Photo credit: Nicole Chicoine

 

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Our Johnson State College Dining Team – Corey, James, and Tom – explores one of the many Peaslee potato fields along the Connecticut River. Photo credit: Nicole Chicoine
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These potatoes will feed our campus communities across Vermont – from Castleton University all the way to Lyndon State College.  Photo credit: Nicole Chicoine