In the past decade, Vermont’s local food sector has boomed. Local food sales have increased 32%, food system employment has increased 11.6%, and local food purchases have increased by 6.9%. This success is due in part to the flourishing Farm to Plate network.
Vermont Farm to Plate launched in 2009, when legislation was signed tasking the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund with creating a ten-year strategic plan to do three things: increase economic development in the farm and food sector, create jobs in the farm and food economy, and improve access to healthy local food for all Vermonters. Since then, the Farm to Plate network has grown to encompass some 350 food system organizations and enterprises that participate in five working groups, six cross-cutting teams, and many task forces to carry out this plan.
The John Merck Fund has provided general operating support to Farm to Plate since 2012, supporting “backbone” functions such as the yearly network gathering in November and their groundbreaking data visualization work that allows them to track progress towards 2020 goals and host an interactive, online atlas of food system stakeholders. JMF also supports relationship building and collaboration between Farm to Plate staff and their peers doing food system planning and implementation in other New England states.
This coming year, VSJF will be continuing their core work, as well as honing their communications and outreach strategy, launching a “buy local” campaign, and providing in-depth support to vegetable and meat producers hoping to enter the wholesale marketplace.
One of the reasons for Farm to Plate’s success has been the visionary and collaborative leadership of VSJF Executive Director Ellen Kahler. In October 2015, Ellen received the first-ever Con Hogan Award, which is given to a Vermont leader for their deep community involvement, generosity, enthusiasm, collaborative approach, and focus on data and outcomes.
*See Farm to Plate’s latest annual report for more information.