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!

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(Word)Press Re-Release: UVM Proctor Maple Research Center to Provide Pure Maple Syrup to UVM Dining

It is incredibly rare that we can speak in terms of percentages like “100%”.  Living in Vermont, it is commonplace to feel that the only enduring, consistent term we know is that the weather can change on a dime 100% of the time.
In the vein of local food purchasing, there are only a few products that are well-adapted to this rugged climate, have the infrastructure and resources to support all aspects of production, and are available for a majority of the year.

This news, therefore, is big:
100% of the syrup offered on the UVM campus will now be Vermont Maple Syrup.
The Press Release is (Word)Press Re-Released below.

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August 17, 2015    

ContactsPMRC logo
Tom Vogelmann, Dean of UVM College of Agriculture & Life Sciences
tvogelma@uvm.edu, 802-656-0321

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Melissa Zelazny, Resident District Manager, UVM Dining
mzelazny@uvm.edu, 802-656-4664
UVM Dining will be offering maple syrup from the University of Vermont’s own Proctor Maple Research Center (PMRC), starting this fall. PMRC’s Grade A Dark maple syrup with robust taste will be the standard across the campus’ nine dining locations.

The conversation started with an undergraduate class project in a class called ‘Barriers to Local Food Sourcing’, where UVM Dining was the community partner. Students researched potential maple syrup vendors who could accommodate UVM Dining’s volume and sizing needs.

“When UVM Dining called, I was instantly interested,” said Tom Vogelman, Dean of UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, “Students are an active part of the PMRC, now they’ll get to enjoy the maple syrup that they help make on their pancakes!”

For the past 12 years, PMRC has been selling their maple in bulk, once a year, to Butternut Maple Farms of Morrisville, Vermont. PMRC used to sell to the UVM Bookstore in small amounts, which was too small scale to be efficient. PMRC expects to sell over 1,000 gallons to UVM Dining over the school year.

PMRC is the oldest maple research center in the country and tapped over 3,700 trees during the 2015 season, which yielded nearly 2,000 gallons of locally-PRMC Facility exteriorproduced, certified-organic maple syrup.  As a research entity at The University, PMRC is a non-profit and therefore is seeking to only cover their production and handling costs. This was essential in UVM Dining’s ability to afford the adequately nicknamed ‘liquid gold’.  “We’re thrilled to have students, faculty, and staff enjoy UVM produced maple syrup” says Tim Perkins, Director of PMRC.

“Maple syrup is a quintessential Vermont product. We want to showcase the foods that Vermont is known for in our dining halls,” said Melissa Zelazny, Resident District Manager of UVM Dining.

This partnership supports UVM’s Real Food Commitment goals and Sodexo’s Vermont First pledge.

“I have seen students bring their own maple syrup into the dining halls for their pancakes in the past because that is what they prefer,” said Alyssa Johnson, student chair of UVM’s Real Food Challenge Working Group, “I know students are going to be excited about this!”

PMRC’s first delivery to campus will be August 26th.