Publishers' Note Spring 2010
Written onMarch 01 , 2010
In May 2009, the Vermont Legislature took a bold step toward strengthening sustainable agriculture in the state. Our lawmakers passed a bill called The Farm to Plate Investment Program, which seeks to increase economic development in Vermont’s food and farm sector by creating food- and farm-related jobs, improving access to healthy local foods for Vermonters, and expanding local and regional markets for Vermont products. Since the bill’s passage, the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund has taken the lead in working with a variety of ag-related groups to develop the 10-year strategic plan mandated by the bill. Funds for this project were made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (otherwise known as “the stimulus”). It has also been supported by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and various foundations.
This past winter, we were excited to participate in one of eight Farm to Plate Regional Food Summits held throughout Vermont. These regional summits brought together local farmers, food producers, and other community members to discuss the barriers and opportunities in Vermont’s food system. At each meeting, smaller focus groups were formed to tackle more specific issues. One group focused on the distribution and marketing of local foods. A second looked at the infrastructure necessary to support farmers and producers, including land, tools, and farm policy. A third focused on ways to encourage more individuals to take up farming. Organizing these events was no small feat, and our hats go off to the two remarkable women who organized them, Ellen Kahler and Kit Perkins of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. We also want to give a shout out to all the folks around the state who helped bring these events to fruition.
The energy and passion with which people engaged in the conversations were extraordinary. By initiating community dialogues, these summits have already enriched our state, and many of the ideas voiced at the meetings will be presented in the “F2P” report, as it’s known. The report will present a bird’s eye view of our agricultural landscape and outline where investments should be made to strengthen the agricultural economy in a sustainable and socially responsible way. The report is just the beginning of a process, though, one that will require commitment, cooperation, and energy from a variety of people, including policymakers, farmers, producers, and consumers. It will take a level of participation and teamwork on par with what we saw at the summits.