By Erica Campbell, the Vermont Farm to Plate Program Director
The Vermont Farm to Plate Network is a statewide initiative legislatively directed to strengthen Vermont’s food system and increase local food production and consumption by 2020. It’s made up of over 225 organizations encompassing farm and food system businesses, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund helps coordinate the Network and is launching the much anticipated Vermont Food System Atlas this spring. The Atlas features thousands of food system resources including stories, videos, job listings, data, a searchable map, and all sections of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan—the most comprehensive food system plan in the country and the first in New England. The Atlas provides a one-stop web portal searchable by people and places, region, keyword, and food system categories to enable partnerships to help reach the 25 goals of the plan.
Network members are getting excited for the Atlas to go live. “As a diversified farmer, I anticipate being able to use the Food System Atlas as a single source to connect with all the resources available to help me farm successfully,” says John Cleary of Cleary Family Farm in Plainfield. “Improving farmer access to technical assistance programs, educational workshops, and financing opportunities will help Vermont farmers grow and develop new markets. In my role as a fieldman for Organic Valley, the Atlas will help me connect new and existing farmers with market opportunities offered by our farmer-owned cooperative.”
The Vermont Food System Atlas will also serve as the communication hub for the businesses, organizations, and stakeholders engaged in the Network. Members collaborate in working groups and task forces and are developing and initiating specific projects to meet the plan’s goals, including increasing consumption of local food, diversifying production, and soil conservation. Besides helping these groups stay connected and coordinated, the Atlas will serve as and indicators dashboard to track the progress we’re all making toward building a resilient, viable, and sustainable local food system.
The Vermont Farm to Plate Network is not only working to grow Vermont’s food system but is also helping build a vibrant food system for the Northeast. Network members are active participants in the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) and the Food Solutions New England (FSNE) Network. Vermont is also playing an important role in helping other states develop food system plans. The Food System Atlas helps bridge Vermont’s multi-faceted local food efforts and programs to a statewide level to prepare Vermont for its vital role in creating a robust regional food system.
One May 13 the Vermont Food System Atlas will go live to the public, www.vtfoodatlas.com. Follow Vermont Farm to Plate news and updates on Twitter at @VTfarm2plate.