What does this mean? Besides being the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month, this idea perfectly captures what we at Vermont First aim to do. We are going further with food by not just prioritizing local, but also prioritizing seasonal local purchasing and consumption. Making the conscious choice to eat local food in-season means that you introduce a tasty variety into your diet and also support Vermont’s local economy and working lands.
When you choose to eat with the season, you introduce a greater variety of produce into your diet which supports gut health, decrease your risk of heart disease, increase folic acid (helps build red blood cells!), and much more. Your body will thank you.
You choose to keep money in the community. Your decision to purchase local Vermont products creates jobs, strengthens the flow of funds into your immediate community, and keeps Vermont’s working lands working. A recent UVM study found that every dollar spent on Vermont grown and manufactured food generated an additional $0.38 to $0.68 of value for the local economy. Your neighbors and friends will thank you.
Ok, but how?
Maybe you aren’t sure which crops are best in which seasons, don’t fret! Use these staples as a jump start as you begin thinking about seasonal consumption:
Winter: beets and cabbage
Spring: tomatoes and parsnips
Summer: cucumbers and peppers
Fall: potatoes and squash
Looking for more? Check out the full seasonal availability list here and our Vermont seasonal crop flyers below!
And finally, when we run out of local supply, we often don’t need to look further than our neighboring states to fill the gaps. Healthcare Without Harm‘s Nourished by New England campaign highlights the availability of regional products.
You have the power to shift consumption towards local and seasonal favor (and flavor!). Eating local produce in Vermont doesn’t mean eating only apples and carrots. Go further with food – enjoy a diverse diet all year round, supporting both the needs of your body and your larger community!
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.
Tomorrow will be my three month anniversary on the job as the Vermont First Coordinator for Sodexo. While three months is far from a milestone, it is a chunk of time of important learning and building relationships. As we mark the end of this quarter, we are launching into the exhilarating – can I also say ‘white-knuckling’? Maybe throw in a ‘yikes’ somewhere? – transition from ‘thinking‘ to ‘doing.’
What have we been thinking about these past three months, you ask?
Vermont First is Sodexo’s way of saying that buying local is more than a trend, more than a serendipitous, one-time purchase, more than a photo-op. Buying local is a way of doing business that requires strategy, committed partners, and the alignment of values that resonate with all of us: building strong communities, the availability of healthy food, supporting a sustainable, local economy, and protecting the environment. Vermont First will create the road map to integrate these values into the Sodexo business model, which is a model that operates across 80 countries and supports 400,000 employees. The more we think about this, there is one thing we know: we cannot do this alone.
Knowing this, over the past three months, we’ve asked:
What does Vermont think?
In spreading the word about my hire, in news venues like VT Public Radio, a press release that was picked up across Vermont newspapers, and sharing through social media, we reached a lot of people. On a daily basis, the two simple, honest sentences I get from friends to strangers alike are: “That’s really exciting. That’s a big job.”
We need to be sure we always know what Vermont thinks. In order to help accomplish this, we will be assembling an Advisory Board this summer made up of individuals who represent the diverse sectors of the Vermont food system, from people who teach about food, to people who grow food, to people who move food to where it needs to go.
What does New England think?
We presented at the Farm to Institution New England (FINE) summit in Amherst, MA in April, looking to share our story with the region. The most common question after we give presentations to groups like these is, “How do we get a fill in your state here First?”
Vermont First has – you guessed it – a statewide focus. Our regional partners think that while state borders are important, we must balance our state perspective with a regional perspective.
What do Sodexo managers and chefs think?
This is group of people who know an opportunity when they see one and know how to make things happen.
Managers and chefs want more information. They want to be better networked with the farms and food businesses around them. They want to know when and where there is a viable local product available that they should consider. They want to be able to tell the faculty, staff, and students on their campuses where the food they are eating is coming from.
What do farms and food businesses think?
To farms and food businesses in Vermont, Vermont First means a market opportunity for their products. Sodexo is a very different market from other markets in Vermont. Vermont entrepreneurs want to know what Sodexo is looking for and how to do business with us.
What do our vendors think?
Our vendors work hard to bring us the local products that we want. Often times, local sourcing is part of their mission as well and they are happy to see the market growing.
Vendors are on board to help us track our progress by providing us with purchasing reports that tell the story of our shared success as we work towards a common goal.
From Thinking to Doing
We are building our next steps and goals with the thoughts from these important groups. For instance, in response to what we’ve heard, we are currently:
Seeking applicants for our Vermont First Advisory Board, to be made up of a broad representation of individuals engaged in the Vermont food system. This group will provide insight and guidance on the direction of Vermont First. (Interested in being part of the Advisory Board? Click here for our Advisory Board application – due June 12th!)
Organizing summer farm tours to help build stronger connections between farms/food businesses and campuses.
Meeting with and surveying our contracted vendors on an individual basis to improve our systems for communicating to them what we need, from products to reporting on our purchases.
Vermont First is Sodexo’s response to the demand for more local food. In 2014, we purchased 15% local food. Increasing this number will take commitment and patience from all our friends and partners in the food system, both in Vermont and beyond.