• Publishers' Note Fall 2017

    Publishers' Note Fall 2017

    As the days shorten and the temperatures begin their march south, here in Vermont we are so fortunate to experience Mother Nature’s annual display. It’s always been our favorite time of year; full of abundance from the summer and with a hint of the bittersweet knowledge that winter is next up on the docket.

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  • It’s Time for Puttin’ It Up

    It’s Time for Puttin’ It Up

    You may remember your mother or grandmother’s stories about “puttin’ up” tomatoes or green beans every summer.

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  • Set the Table with Bison

    Set the Table with Bison

    While the horned, haunched American bison usually evokes backdrops of western plains and peaks, it also inhabits the outskirts of humble Rutland, Vermont.

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  • People, Places, and Plates

    People, Places, and Plates

    You know how some buildings, even when they’re empty, seem as if their history is still alive, shimmering through the veil of the now? That’s how many people in Williamsville, Vermont, a bucolic community situated along Rock River, saw their old general store, sitting empty since 2007, after 185 years of continuous operation.

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  • Turn Summer’s Vegetables Into Winter’s Flavor Bombs

    Turn Summer’s Vegetables Into Winter’s Flavor Bombs

    If you garden or own a membership in a CSA, you know high summer through autumn as the time of year when everything explodes, and the piles of produce accumulating on kitchen counters, mudroom floors, erupting from crisper drawers, and occupying idle porch swings have begun to impede normal daily routine.

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  • Bringing Back the Local Grain Economy

    Bringing Back the Local Grain Economy

    Blair Marvin and Andrew Heyn of Elmore Mountain Bread have been baking together for 14 years. They’ve spent years researching and fine-tuning their recipes and processes to make the best bread possible—loaves that are full of taste yet equally full of nutrition.

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  • Farm-to-Fashion  in Sky Like Snow

    Farm-to-Fashion in Sky Like Snow

    “Farm to Table” is a familiar term—the distribution of goods from local farms to local communities that enables us to know where our food comes from and encourages the support of our producers. I hadn’t much entertained the idea of “Farm to Fashion,” hadn’t really considered the depth of the phrase, until I met fiber artist Hannah Regier at her home and studio in Athens, Vermont.

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  • Vermont Young Farmers Coalition

    Vermont Young Farmers Coalition

    Our state chapter, the Vermont Young Farmers Coalition (VYFC), engages both farm owners and employees who are putting down roots here. VYFC supports the national organization in their mission and projects, and engages with young farmers across Vermont, connecting them with fellow farmers and organizations.

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  • Stay Rooted in Vermont with Local Food

    Stay Rooted in Vermont with Local Food

    If you live in Vermont, chances are that at some time during the year you’ll be eating food that was either grown or processed (or both) in Vermont.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Singing River Farm’s Flint Corn Cornbread

    Farmers' Kitchen—Singing River Farm’s Flint Corn Cornbread

    As farmers, we try to hold a perspective that we are only the current stewards of land that has been, and will be, cared for by a continuum of people for millennia before and after us. Growing flint corn and saving its seed each year helps us maintain that perspective.

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  • The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union

    The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union

    From the union of power and money,
    From the union of power and secrecy,
    From the union of government and science,
    From the union of government and art,
    From the union of science and money,
    From the union of genius and war,
    From the union of outer space and inner vacuity,
    The Mad Farmer walks quietly away.

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Stay Rooted in Vermont with Local Food

Stay Rooted in Vermont with Local Food

Written By

Helen Labun Jordan

Written on

August 16 , 2017

If you live in Vermont, chances are that at some time during the year you’ll be eating food that was either grown or processed (or both) in Vermont. Some people seek these foods out, but a lot of Vermonters simply happen across them, as they always have—Vermont roasted coffee at the gas station, a few extra zucchinis from anyone who has a garden. Maple syrup. Fishing trips. Hunting trips. Not to mention that 64 percent of all New England milk comes from Vermont cows.

Rooted in Vermont, which originated in the Farm to Plate Network at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF), would like everyone to remember that lots of people ate these Vermont foods before “local” became alive with marketing buzz.

“In talking to Vermonters around the state who do not identify themselves as ‘locavores’ or foodies…those people spoke loud and clear about feeling like hunting, and gardening, and foraging were some of the original ways Vermonters had access to local food, and that those things are not part of the current discussions about local food, and instead it’s a lot of expensive food, fancy food,” says Rachel Carter, communications director at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. “That’s created a sense of irritation among Vermonters…they want connections to the original local food, not the trendiness of recent years.”

Rooted in Vermont aims to spark a cultural shift so that all Vermonters feel included in the local foods movement. Toward that end, they spent the last year experimenting with social media, using #RootedInVermont to encourage everyone to share the ways they connect with local food. Examples on their Facebook page include photographs from UVM and the Vermont Historical Society, gardening tips, an article on the cost of local food, and information about Vermont foods such as garlic scapes, cheese, and strawberries. The Instagram account takes advantage of Vermont food’s photogenic qualities; it includes community meals, piglets, many shots of fish, garden harvests, and farmers’ markets.

Rachel emphasizes that “We’re not promoting events, not telling people to buy things, just building a relationship.”

Liz Ruffa, co-chair of the Consumer Education and Marketing Working Group of the Farm to Plate Network, explains, “What’s really powerful about Rooted in Vermont is that this is sort of both a PSA and a local food promotion campaign…it resonates with Vermont values of pride, equity, and tradition—values that Vermonters hold so dear—and this value proposition is getting woven into support of local food.”

The goal at the moment isn’t increasing farmers’ sales, per se, it’s helping everyone see themselves as part of the local foods movement through highlighting the ways they already are.

While it currently de-emphasizes any economic transactions, Rooted in Vermont is also playing the long game for local food purchasing. The idea is that when local foods become mainstream, showing up in quantity at supermarkets and similar outlets, there will be plenty of customers waiting to buy them. These customers still may not go out of their way to find local food, but they would look for that “Vermont” label on shelves where they normally shop. This outcome would highlight a major strength in the “network” element of the Farm to Plate Network: one committee focuses on building demand for local food among more consumer groups, while other committees work on building the supply to the places where those consumers shop. Combine the two projects and everyone wins.

The lineage of Rooted in Vermont traces the ways that Farm to Plate works as a network. It begins with a 2009 legislative mandate to the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund to develop a plan for promoting local foods. The resulting Farm to Plate Plan was published in 2011 with, from Chapter One, an “…ultimate purpose to encourage policies and strategic investments that accelerate the movement toward strong local and regional food systems.” The plan identifies 25 goals for supporting Vermont food and dozens of strategies, objectives, and measurements beneath those goals. Goals are focused around the year 2020, although not all the work is expected to be completed at that time. Rachel puts the cultural shift timeline for Rooted in Vermont at 5 to 10 years from its beginning last year.

The Farm to Plate Network is the individuals and organizations working to reach the plan’s goals. Formally, it includes five working groups, five teams working on cross cutting issues, and additional task forces formed within those working groups and teams. The Consumer Marketing and Education Working Group, where Rooted in Vermont originated, used Farm to Plate research that included surveys—followed by focus groups held around the state—to sketch out a Rooted in Vermont concept. This concept was refined further by a Task Force, followed by hiring content creators and managers, who tested Rooted in Vermont on social media before developing a more detailed plan for a statewide launch this summer.

Today, Rooted in Vermont is the first project from a Farm to Plate Working Group to receive full staffing at VSJF—they hired Shane Rogers, formerly of Green Mountain Farm to School, as project manager in July of this year.

Liz notes that Rooted in Vermont is a good pick for this level of investment because the group has demonstrated the full-time nature of work involved. Within Farm to Plate’s plan for progress toward 2020, “…access and affordability are the overarching goals, and Rooted in Vermont advances those outcomes,” she explains.

Communications director Carter anticipates this hire will allow for focusing more energy on community outreach across the state. Shane will work with community organizers who can help achieve the elusive word-of-mouth source of local food recommendation and endorsement. Rachel emphasizes that this work is a grassroots movement and that the full-time manager will help that grassroots component “lift off.”  “Rooted in Vermont is a way for all Vermonters to feel connected to the local food movement,” she summarizes. Ultimately, it provides tools for everyone who enjoys Vermont foods to share that experience with others and to identify themselves as “Rooted in Vermont’”

You can follow Rooted in Vermont on Facebook: facebook.com/RootedinVermont; Twitter: twitter.com/rootedinvermont; and Instagram: instagram.com/rootedinvermont/. Businesses, organizations, and Vermont communities can get involved too. Learn more at http://bit.ly/RootedinVermontMovement.

About the Author

Helen Labun Jordan

Helen Labun Jordan

Helen Labun is exploring creative cuisine as the chef-owner of Hel’s Kitchen in Montpelier (helskitchenvt.com).

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A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.


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Home Stories Issues 2017 Fall 2017 | Issue 42 Stay Rooted in Vermont with Local Food