By Vicky Parra Tebbetts
Under mostly stormy skies last June, a cohort of a dozen students threaded their way through Vermont, traveling 404 miles to learn from leaders at five colleges, one university, and a law school, and mulling through 54 afternoon hours at 21 of Vermont’s most commendable food systems field destinations. Scattered across the country, these students came to take part in the Vermont Food Systems Summer Study Tour, an experiential learning immersion hosted by the Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium. Food and farm education is the focus of this group of seven learning institutions, of which UVM is a part.
Amid this tempest of learning and lore, the students settled themselves for two days in Burlington for the UVM Food Systems Summit. There they joined the group to engage with speakers of international significance on the right to food. They wrote, connected, and posed provocative questions. Fast forward to June 2016.
What Makes Food Good?
This year, the UVM Food Systems Summit is scheduled for June 14 and 15, and a fresh crop of Food Systems Summer Study Tour students will join the Summit just prior to the Tour’s kickoff on June 16. The Summit’s theme, “What Makes Food Good,” examines the social, environmental, and political values that greatly influence individuals’ and communities’ sense of the “good.” For example, in the context of food systems, we may favor certain agricultural production practices, culinary traditions, or labor policies.
Claire Kremen at the 2015 UVM Food Systems Summit.
As we find the good in our food over those two days in June, we’ll reveal the good in our education. Real people will re-create systems to support real food for real change. They will plant ideas and harvest inspiration. In support of our common goal, Vermont food and farm education is a keystone in making our state the epicenter of the food-systems movement. Growing from the UVM Food Systems Summit, vision will frame the Vermont Food Systems Summer Study Tour as it unfolds through the end of June. What makes the Vermont food education experience so good – in fact – quite delicious?
The Best Traditions
The tastiest cheese. The headiest beer. The sweetest maple syrup. The most innovative communities. Vermont is consistently recognized for leading the country, and even the world, in local food, sustainable agriculture, and food-systems rankings. Our agricultural economy is founded on ecological stewardship and community development. Our history and culture inform our values and are at the core of Vermont’s brand of food and farming education.
Forever Fields of Expertise
Collaborators from around the state are working together as an innovative network that cuts across traditional boundaries, generating new initiatives and gathering quantitative and qualitative data. Efforts such as Vermont Farm to Plate suggest that Vermont’s status as the national leader in direct farm-to-consumer sales and food-systems reform is no accident; rather, these successes are the result of strategic and collaborative statewide efforts, bringing together the confluence of community-based initiatives and organizations.
The Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium is one collaboration that underpins Vermont’s renowned food system through the Vermont Food Systems Summer Study Tour and other initiatives. In addition to The University of Vermont, the Consortium is comprised of Green Mountain College, Middlebury College, New England Culinary Institute, Sterling College, Vermont Law School, and Vermont Tech.
It’s a Matter of Taste
Vermont’s food and farming educational institutions have long provided two critical assets for Vermont’s food system reputation and successes: the expertise of faculty and the cultivation of young entrepreneurs and leaders. It’s not simply the value of an education in food and agriculture in Vermont that matters; it’s also the values upon which our innovative curricula are based. It’s a matter of taste, and through our collaboration, Vermont’s institutions of higher education have an unrivaled menu in food-system education possibilities.
Innovate + Educate = Vermontivate
Vermont food and farm education is ultimately empowering a new generation of leaders to be catalysts of change at local, state, national, and international levels. Through programming like the Summit and the Vermont Food Systems Summer Study Tour, we are connecting learners with leaders to inspire a new global community of leaders to change the way we think about, cultivate, and leverage food systems.
On June 16, Vermont Food Systems Summer Study Tour students convene at the UVM Food Systems Summit in Burlington to discover what makes food good, where and how we place our values, and question perspectives on how the food system should work. Through the Summit, UVM opens up the portal for all students to enter the realm of Vermont food-system education and plug directly in to the global renaissance of food systems.
-Vicky Tebbetts lives on a farm in Cabot and manages the marketing for the Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium.