From the Audience: A Student’s Recap of Taking Root 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.

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Keynote Speaker, Ben Hewitt; Photo credit: Nate Stevens

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.

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Posters telling the stories of the producers who provided the food for our meal. Photo credit: Nate Stevens

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.   

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Student attendee enjoying the charcuterie spread featuring Jasper Hill Cheese, VT Salumi, Grafton Village Cheese, and Red Barn Crackers. Photo credit: Nate Stevens

 

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A lunch dish featuring VT Chevon goat, VT Bean Crafters beans, and squash gleaned from local farms by Salvation Farms.  Photo credit: Nate Stevens

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.  

The day finished with a final career networking session in which students could speak to panelists and representatives from across the state. Employers present included Green Mountain Farm to School, Intervale Food Hub, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Jasper Hill Farm, Sodexo, Maple Wind Farm, and many more. As food systems continues to grow as a field, connecting students to innovative organizations offers an opportunity to build professional relationships as well as open up new understanding of the evolving food system.

 

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Taking Root Student Symposium Agenda

Our agenda is 95% finished, and we want to give you a sneak peak of the full day!  Stay tuned for final touches as October 28th nears!

Registration is now open – please email Annie Rowell annie.rowell@sodexo.com for more information.

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Taking Root Student Symposium – Save the Date!

We couldn’t be more excited to announce that we are hosting the Taking Root Student Symposium on October 28th at the University of Vermont, in partnership with Vermont Farm to Plate and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

This symposium is designed for all Vermont college students to celebrate farm to institution and learn about what it means to chart a career in food. We are pleased to

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Ben Hewitt, Taking Root Student Symposium’s Keynote Speaker

share that our keynote speaker will be Ben Hewitt, a Vermont-based author of many books including The Town That Food Saved and Making Supper Safe. Throughout the day, students will learn about:

 

  • Why farm to institution is important
  • 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 Eat the Loop Supper LogoVermont 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 annie.rowell@sodexo.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!

Stay tuned for more to come! Be sure to follow us on Instagram @vermontfirst for more information!

The Truth About Spring’s Perfume: Manure in Vermont

 

On this Earth Day as we meditate on how we can all be better stewards of our planet, Louise Calderwood, former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture for the State of Vermont, offers a few thoughts on a key ingredient in our sustainable food system – manure.

Manure application on agricultural fields requires a great deal of responsible management in order to keep our soils healthy and productive and our water quality high.

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Photo credit: Fairmont Farms

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The signs of spring are here; singing birds, green grass, bright sun and….manure! Manure? That doesn’t fit this list of welcome springtime arrivals- or does it? Why do farmers spread the sloppy liquid? Do Vermont farmers have to comply with environmental laws for manure applications? How do they keep manure from polluting our waterways?

Manure is a valuable resource for farmers.  Nutrients in the form of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium contained in manure are essential to grow forage crops and vegetables. Dairy and livestock farmers use manure from their animals to boost forage production while some vegetable producers import manure to meet the needs of their crops.

All farmers are required by state and federal law to use manure according to the nutrient needs of the crops and fields where they spread it. Larger farms have to maintain plans and records to prove to state regulators they are using the manure appropriately and minimizing the impact on water quality. In the near future, smaller farms will need to self-certify they are meeting the same standards to protect water quality.

Manure pollutes water if it runs off farm fields and into rivers and streams. Phosphorus carried in the manure causes algal growth that robs the water of oxygen needed for aquatic life and can lead to blooms of toxin producing cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae.

In addition to manure management farmers also protect water quality by managing liquids released from stored feed and maintaining buffers of grass with no manure or fertilizer application between fields and water ways. Farmers test the chemical make-up of the manure and soil to be sure the right amount of manure is spread on each field.

One theme is constant across all farms: manure is money and farmers don’t waste it. Responsible farmers recognize their role in protecting water quality and appropriate manure management.

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Louise H. Calderwood, provides government relations services, grant writing, development and executive director services to a number of agricultural organizations and producers throughout the Northeast. She also serves as adjunct faculty teaching animal science, whole farm planning, US agricultural policy, and farm business management at Sterling College in Craftsbury, VT. Calderwood served as Vermont’s deputy secretary of agriculture from 1998 to 2006 and as a regional dairy specialist with UVM Extension, specializing in dairy reproduction, from 1988 to 1998. Calderwood is a graduate of UVM (BS-Dairy Science), Virginia Tech (MS-Dairy Science), and conducted graduate research in animal physiology at North Carolina State University and UVM. She is a partner with her husband, Randi, in the family’s sugaring operation. She serves on the boards of the Vermont Community Loan Fund, and the North Country Investment Corporation.

 

As promised…Meet the Vermont First Advisory Board!

We are very excited to announce the creation of the Vermont First Advisory Board! The Vermont First Advisory Board will support Sodexo’s Vermont First Initiative in realizing Sodexo’s goal of strategically increasing the purchase of Vermont products across Sodexo’s Vermont accounts. The Advisory Board is a tremendous ally in providing guidance to moving Vermont First objectives forward. The Board is made up of the following members:

Name Organization Representation Category
Bill Suhr Champlain Orchards  A person who operates a conventional vegetable farm (Eco-Apple Certified)
Jon Slason Harlow Farm A person who operates an organic farm
Tony Risitano Deep Root Organic Coop A person with an intimate understand of food aggregation operation
Mike Rosenberg Garuka Bars A value-added food product business owner
Sean Buchanan Black River Produce/Black River Meats A person with expertise in meat (slaughter, processing, marketing, storage) A distributor who distributes local food
Abbey Willard Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets A person involved in creating or advising policy in Vermont
Erica Campbell Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund Vermont Farm to Plate A person with experience in research and data analysis A person involved in creating or advising policy in Vermont
Olivia Pena University of Vermont A student who attends a Sodexo campus account in Vermont who eats campus food
Abbie Nelson NOFA-VT VT FEED A person who educates others about food and/or food systems A person with experience in research and data analysis
Vern Grubinger UVM Extension A food safety specialist
Heather Lynch-Ellis St. Michael’s College A person who educates others about food and/or food systems
Christina Erickson Champlain College A person who educates others about food and/or food systems
Doug Lantagne UVM Food System Initiative A person who educates others about food and/or food systems
Jane Clifford Clifford Farms Green Mountain Dairy Federation A person who operates a dairy farm

The experience and perspective of this strong group will be instrumental in moving the needle forward on Vermont First objectives.