Last October, we organized and hosted the first Taking Root Student Symposium in partnership with Vermont Farm to Plate and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. Overall, 83 students from 7 Vermont campuses, joined by 67 staff, faculty, and community members heard from entrepreneurs, farmers, and policymakers to learn about current food systems issues and engaged with leaders in the field to discuss potential careers working in Vermont’s food system. If you missed it, or if you attended and want to see scenes from the day, check out our video from the day here!
A huge thanks to UVM Video and everyone who took the time to speak on our video covering the day of the Student Symposium!
We cannot believe we are already at the end of the 2018 fall semester. Vermont is currently buried in snow and serious winter temperatures, so we come in from the cold to look back on what has proved to be a stimulating and fun semester.
We are excited to share a post by our UVM Dining Nutrition Intern, Anastasia Tsekeris, who attended the Taking Root Student Symposium this past October. Overall, 150 attendees, including 83 students from 7 different VT campuses, gathered at UVM on an icy Sunday morning to hear from food system professionals about the innovative work happening in Vermont food and to learn more about what it looks like to launch a career working in food in Vermont.
In addition to reading this post, be sure to also check out this great article in Food Management magazine featuring the symposium!
Thank you, Anastasia, for capturing the day! Thank you also to our partners VT Farm to Plate, VT Agency of Agriculture, and UVM Event Services for making the event possible!
Vermont First recently held their first student symposium on October 28th designed to celebrate and learn about farm to institution and the career paths within the food system. Vermont chefs, entrepreneurs, farmers, and other leaders in the field gathered to discuss current food systems issues, celebrate Vermont’s farm to institution efforts in supporting local farmers, and to support students pursuing careers working in food.
The day kicked off with a warm welcome and overview of the day provided by UVM Dining’s Sustainability Manager, Marissa Watson. Watson set the tone of the day by encouraging students, producers, and partners to utilize this opportunity to engage with one another and build new relationships. She then introduced the Keynote Speaker, Vermont author and farmer Ben Hewitt. Hewitt has written six books on agriculture and food, including most popularly The Town that Food Saved.
Hewitt began by sharing an anecdote about his neighbor, Martha – an older farmer for whom he and his children bale hay. Martha returns the favor by providing hay for Hewitt’s sheep. After years of this neighborly trade, Hewitt has come to love baling hay because it requires hard labor and self-reliance, which he feels is one act of protest against the convenient, mindless farming methods employed in industrial agriculture. Through haying and his observations of Martha’s hard work and commitment to stewarding her land, Hewitt realized he saw deeper into the tragedy of the food system: it requires so little of us, but we require it in order to survive. This disconnect allows us to often neglect and forget our connection to the land. His final parting thoughts highlighted the importance of being independent thinkers filled with gratitude for the outdoors:
Remember that everything comes from the soil.
Get outside every day
There is no better way to reclaim culture and liberty than to produce good, nourishing food in fair, responsible ways.
Following Hewitt’s keynote address was a panel highlighting case studies of innovation in the Vermont food system. Panelists included:
Darby’s areas of expertise include soil sciences and environmental stewardship. Darby described her role in Extension, which includes aiding farmers and processors in achieving their goals by utilizing applied research. She shared her story of living in Vermont throughout her life and having to watch the environmental degradation of Lake Champlain, as well as the decline in numbers of farmers. Similarly to Hewitt, Darby instilled the need to take care of our soils and preserve them for future generations. She emphasized this need as especially vital due to the changing climate.
Kehler’s Jasper Hill Farm makes their own cheese as well as matures cheeses for other producers. Kehler characterized his business as a group of activists working in response to a globalized food system. He explained his desire to redefine cheesemaking by supporting independent cheesemakers and preventing consolidation of the market. “Consolidation stifles innovation,” Kehler told the audience.
Bossen described himself as “an advocate for people’s palates”, which is how he found his niche in the market by producing organic heirloom tortillas made from scratch. Bossen emphasized the need to preserve heirloom varieties, as well as creating a market for crops that consumers are not currently accessing.
Snow described “food as a lever for social change” in which we are able to capture food not reaching the market and provide that food to vulnerable populations. Snow emphasized the need to create a more inclusive food system that undermines the power of corporate control. Through a research study done in 2016, Snow discovered that 15% of production was being left on farms. She utilized this data to create Salvation Farms and begin the process of creating a more regional food system.
Our lunch break was based on the theme “Close the Loop.” The goal of this theme, Watson explained, was to raise awareness about food waste and some of the innovative ways Vermont producers work to mitigate waste through the creation of their products. Prior to walking to the lunch, the producers featured during lunch each spoke to the story of their business and products. Products included ice cream from Wilcox Ice Cream incorporated into the Caramelized Apple Compote, chicken from Maple Wind Farm incorporated into the Pulled Chicken Salad on a Baguette, and many more delicious options. Lunch was in UVM’s Central Campus Dining Hall, the new farm to table residential dining hall on campus.
Following lunch, representatives from Vermont Farm to Plate, Jake Claro and Kristyn Achilich, took the stage to briefly discuss career pathways in the food system as well as the Food Sector Job Growth report. The data from the report indicated that jobs within the food system comprise one of the largest growing sectors in Vermont. Achilich offered insight to Vermont Farm to Plate’s new available resource, Career Profiles, which details the many pathways of a food systems career as well as qualifications needed, salary, and more information about these positions.
The final panel of the day featured five panelists, each speaking about their individual career journey and their words of wisdom along the way:
Labun spoke about her non-linear career path. She described jumping from job to job in the field of rural development, and then finally landing her current position where she works to connect chefs to local farmers. When asked what advice she would give to students, Labun encouraged students to take time for themselves away from their career and not to feed into the romanticization of overworking yourself.
Alexander spoke of her experience working currently as the harvest manager as well as the wholesale manager at the farm. She described the difficulty of having a constantly changing schedule, as well as the immense gratification she feels from farming. Alexander recommended students find a career in which they love and to be a problem solver in whatever position you take on.
Myers discussed her experience owning and operating a new business. She founded the company after working in the restaurant industry in New York City, in which she discovered a disconnect between farmers and restaurants. Myers decided to create a business in which she could connect restaurants that were looking for local food to farmers who were looking for a market to sell their produce. Myers’ advice to students: “create the job that you want”.
In addition to running his own cattle business, Schubart also works to source local meat for Walden Local Meat. Schubart’s day in the life was a bit different than the other panelists, which includes rotating cattle three times a day as well as working remotely for Walden Local Meat. He encouraged students to embrace failures as opportunities to learn a new lesson.
Langan spoke on her experience working on the culinary side of the food system. Langan shared her extensive background working in restaurants across the globe, ultimately landing back in her home state of Vermont to follow her passion of teaching students. She described the busy atmosphere of working in a dining hall that serves hundreds of meals a day, and being constantly on her toes for what comes next. Sarah closed the panel by inviting students to be open to whatever journey their career and life may take them.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
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!
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.”
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.
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.