Tortillas With Soul

Photo credit: All Souls Tortilleria

Hand carved limestone grinder; Photo credit: All Souls Tortilleria

By Sarah Bhimani, Outreach and Education Manager, City Market, Onion River Co-op

City Market, a community owned food co-op in Burlington, VT, has a list of Global Ends to guide its business. One of City Market’s Global Ends is “strengthening the local food system,” which is met through a myriad of activities and programs, including highlighting and selling local products (37% of sales in fiscal year 2015 were local and made in Vermont products); planning farm tours and crop mobs for the community; its Co-op Patronage Seedling Grants Program; and its Local Farm and Producer Investment Program.

The Local Farm and Producer Investment Program is one tool that can be used to meet Vermont Farm to Plate Network’s Goal 20: Increasing Access to Capital. Each year, City Market uses a minimum of 5% of the previous year’s retained earnings to invest in local farmer or producer expansion projects. This investment is a no-interest loan that the farmer or producer can choose to pay back over time, either in cash or with product.

To help inform the Local Farm and Producer Investment Program, City Market has a local product gap list to advise farmers and producers about local products still needed in the store, as well as saturated product categories. Local corn tortillas had been on the gap list for a long time, until the Co-op started talking with Joe Bossen of Vermont Bean Crafters about how to fill that gap. Continue reading

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Local farm focus for Vermont’s 2016 legislative session

AB website picby Andrew Bahrenburg

Vermont’s citizen legislators returned to Montpelier last month, with full plates. And while this year’s election cycle—as well as lightning-rod issues like marijuana legalization, paid sick leave, and the state’s budget deficit—will surely suck up much of the capital’s political oxygen, there’s plenty at stake for the state’s small farmers and local eaters.

The small-scale farming sector in Vermont is thriving. While farms around the country continue to consolidate into fewer and fewer hands, the number of Vermont farms is on the rise, and the average size of farms in the state is actually shrinking. But as the state’s agricultural economy shifts toward small-scale, diversified farming, so too must its regulatory framework. For many small farmers, state regulations designed for large-scale industry impose costly barriers between farmer and consumer and lack the flexibility required of today’s small farm.

Here’s what Vermont’s small farmers, and the local consumers who support them, are likely to focus on in the 2016 legislative session: Continue reading

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UVM’s 2016 Food Systems Summit Releases Call for Proposals

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by Hailey Groham

For five consecutive years, food systems advocates and enthusiasts have flocked to Burlington for UVM’s Food Systems Summit. This year, participants will gather June 14-15, for the conference, themed “What Makes Food Good?” This question will be pondered through keynote speakers, plenary sessions, roundtable discussions, and concurrent sessions chosen through an innovative session selection process.

As described in the Call for Proposals, participants have the opportunity to submit session proposals, then vote on the sessions they would most like to attend. Summit organizers developed this unique format due to feedback from previous participants asking for more time to interact with each other in dynamic ways. Submissions for concurrent sessions will be accepted now through January 29, followed by the voting process from March 1 – 10. The Summit theme, “What Makes Food Good?”, is a complex, multifaceted question with no one correct answer. If you have an idea, be it biological, cultural, nutritional, or philosophical, consider submitting a proposal for a concurrent session. See you in June!

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Vermont at five year mark implementing Farm to Plate food system plan

63a7ff50-f10b-41c6-9da9-6c9a5af7db30.pngby Rachel Carter

Increases in local food consumption, jobs, and overall economic activity in the farm and food sector over the past five years are highlighted in the 2015 Farm to Plate Annual Report, released today by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. 2016 marks the halfway point of the release of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan and the Farm to Plate Network is entering its 5th year implementing Vermont’s food system plan. A presentation to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees this morning was immediately followed by a press conference at the Statehouse.

“We could not be more pleased with the 5,300 new jobs that have been created and the overall positive impact Farm to Plate is having on the state’s economy, which has grown to over $10 billion in annual sales. When we passed the Farm to Plate Investment Program legislation in 2009 which called for increasing economic development and jobs in the farm and food sector and improving access to healthy local food for all Vermonters, we had no idea how much change might be possible. Because of the impressive and far reaching efforts of the Farm to Plate Network, this initiative has far exceeded our expectations. We’ve learned so much about how the food system works, how many types of jobs it encompasses, and how many opportunities there are for young people. Farm to Plate has also helped our Committee pass more informed policy and smarter investments in our food system,” says Representative Carolyn Partridge (Windham) and House Agriculture & Forest Products Committee Chair.

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What I learned from the Farmer Training Program

12096607_1094837713883265_8216950278377464046_nby Jenessa Matis

The Farmer Training Program has taught me to be a better consumer. To actively seek out information based on how and where the food I buy was grown. To support companies and farms that provide good wages, working, and living conditions for their employees. To buy from farms concerned about the environmental impact farming can have. To buy from farms that take steps to control, lessen, or even create a positive impact by employing sustainable and regenerative practices. And if farms and companies don’t provide these conditions or don’t follow these practices concerning environmental stewardship and responsibility, I have learned and been inspired to do something about it.

By participating in the program, I’ve learned how to treat the earth more kindly. I now have a better understanding of the purpose and need for organic farming to protect and build soil, water, and biodiversity. I have seen first-hand that treating the earth well will allow it to treat you well in the form of bountiful crops, organic matter, and inspiration.

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