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.

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.

spreaders-on-the-road
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.

 

Results: Vermont First Local Purchasing 2015

The 2015 results are in!

But first, a few thoughts:

When we launched Vermont First, we knew that in order to make strides towards our goal to increase local purchasing across all our Vermont accounts we needed to establish a baseline.

This baseline data needed to provide enough information to support the complex and detailed decisions made on the ground:  for chefs, which products to purchase from a local source; for producers, which products Sodexo is looking for from local producers.

In order to support these challenging decisions, we have built our Vermont First local purchasing tracking system to break down the data by:

  • Account
  • Product Category (i.e. “Produce”)
  • Product Sub-Category (i.e. “Apple”)

VT First FY15 Results - Infographic

The data used to support this infographic will be instrumental in the year ahead, helping to inform conversations and decisions with producers, distributors, and chefs about local purchasing opportunities.

As we turn the corner from data compilation to data analysis, we can begin asking the tough questions to match-make between demand and supply.

We are already seeing how the data can be put into action.
In 2015, our Vermont accounts spent  $123,165.50 on whole potatoes – 14% locally. Peaslee’s Potatoes, out of Guildhall, VT, sells local potatoes that are competitively priced and available through our local produce distributor, Black River Produce.  After identifying this opportunity, Johnson State College began using Peaslee’s for their hand-cut fries daily in the dining hall.  When I stopped in at the college earlier this month, Tom Fondakowski, General Manager, pointed out how the Peaslee’s marketing poster is now a framed wall fixture because they use Peaslee’s potatoes exclusively for the duration of their availability.

Peaslee's in dining hall

We look forward to sharing more stories like this in the months and years ahead.

Excited to read more?  Check out the latest coverage on this story in Vermont Biz.

Vermont First Localvore Challenge at St. Michael’s College

In celebration of Vermont First’s initiative to increase local food sourcing, eight Vermont colleges competed in the Localvore Cooking Challenge yesterday hosted by St. Michael’s College.  Click here to see the live story from WCAX News.

This friendly competition challenges professional and up-and-coming Sodexo chefs to create dishes around foods and products that are native to Vermont. The goal of the Localvore Cooking Challenge is to highlight fresh, local ingredients and promote local farmers and vendors. It provides students with an opportunity to learn about the benefits of local products while enjoying delicious food.

Each campus culinary team prepared and served their local dishes to students during the special lunch at Saint Michael’s College. Students then voted on their favorite dish. The culinary teams were also judged on presentation, creativity, technical execution, and guest interaction by guest judges from the Vermont food community.

Localvore Challenge - Photos 2016

A HUGE shout-out to all the stellar culinary teams from each participating campus.

  • Castleton University – Smoked Chicken & CHeese Sliders with caramelized Whistle Pig onions and cheddar ale sauce, apple beet hash, and apple pave
  • Champlain College – Native Pulled Pork Slider with Queen City Brewery Smokey Rauchbier Beer and rainbow carrot and cabbage slaw
  • Johnson State College – Chickpea Crepe, Risotto Balls, Mud Pie Mini Cupcake
  • Lyndon State College – Maple Chipotle BBQ Beef Slider, Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese, BBQ Tempeh Slider
  • Norwich University – Vermont Maple Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Saint Michael’s College – Maple Bourbon Ice Cream with crispy apples, candied fennel stems, cranberry confit, butternut squash coulis and streusel.
  • University of Vermont – Vermont Elk Sausage and Ricotta Cavatelli Saute
  • Vermont Tech – Carne Desmechada Arepa with NE Raised Beef Brisket and Queso Fresco from Champlain Creamery and Caramelized Apple Arepa with apples from Champlain Orchards and Maple Syrup made at Vermont Tech.

Can you say yum?

Congratulations to the St. Michael’s College team for their first place win this year!

Vermont First Stakeholder Forum Creates Connections for Vermont Suppliers

“There are two types of leadership. Leadership by statements of commitment, and then leadership by action. Leadership by action is what is happening right here today.”

Chuck Ross, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture

In the midst of a December rainstorm, 65 producers, distributors, support organizations, and administrators joined the Sodexo Vermont First team at the first Vermont First Stakeholder Forum at Castleton University.

The dual purpose of the event was to foster collective learning about how the Sodexo supply chain works and also identify the potential opportunities for local products within that supply chain.

Through the work of programs like Vermont First, Sodexo is one of the leaders in the food industry responding to increased demand for local and sustainable food.  Here is a glimpse of the scale of changes happening across the US food industry:evolution in the food industry 1st slide

We see a parallel story happening within Sodexo North America.

evolution in the food industry 2nd slide

This brings us back to the context of our Vermont story.  In a state the size of Vermont, we often feel that Vermont’s role and contribution to society

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Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross addresses VT First Forum audience

is to use our strong connections and political culture of participation to be the testing grounds for change.  At the Vermont First Forum yesterday, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross, drew upon this sentiment in his comments regarding Sodexo’s work through Vermont First:
“[Vermont First is a] model that can be replicated across the country, and I’m thrilled that Sodexo is leading the way.”

Highlights

As we finalize the 2015 local purchasing numbers, a few trends are emerging – both in areas of growth in our local purchasing as well as areas that deserve a closer look in collaboration with our distributor and producer partners.

TOP SPEND - 2ND SLIDE

 

What’s next?

Through Vermont First, we have introduced an extensive food purchase tracking system that captures purchasing trends in greater detail than we have been able to capture before.

vermont first report 2015 - 2nd slide

Stay tuned for this information over the next few weeks.  You will be able to find that information here on the Vermont First blog, Vermont Farm to Plate, and through local media sources like Vermont Digger.

Continue reading Vermont First Stakeholder Forum Creates Connections for Vermont Suppliers