Good review of the progress made by Vermont’s Farm to Plate Initiative (a model I’m watching closely). One of the most challenging areas for local food expansion is moving into schools and hospitals – and yet, this is also where it is most needed. I’m also pleased to see the expanded program in VT law school – expanding the number of small farms is going to involve some major shifts in a whole host of areas governed by law:
In 2011 Fletcher Allen Hospital served more than 2 million meals, actually making hospital nutrition services the largest restaurant in Vermont. They partner with 70 local farmers and producers providing healthy, fresh, meals from scratch to patients while boosting the local economy. The hospital’s restaurant is actually one of Burlington’s most popular lunch spots to the general public.
Legislation passed in the spring of 2011 created the Working Lands Enterprise Fund and 15 Vermonters were appointed to the Board which will oversee investment in Vermont’s forests, farms, and agricultural producers. The Board is in the process of determining the funding criteria for grant proposals for $1 million in infrastructure development and technical assistance services in the coming year. Hopes are high that the Shumlin Administration and Legislature will approve elevated levels of funding in years to come.
Vermont Technical College’s Institute for Applied Agriculture and Food Systems received a $3.4 million federal grant in the fall of 2012 to serve the applied research and educational needs of agriculture, food production, waste disposal, and energy production businesses in the region through a cooperative education learning model.
Also in 2012, Vermont Law School established and hired a director for the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems to provide support, research, legal counsel, and leadership for community-based agricultural systems expansion.
There is an enormous need for social supports especially for infrastructure building – serving large institutions from small farms had transport, slaughter and processing challenges that we’re not set up to handle. And yet, if we’re to build the number of small farms needed to make a dent in really feeding local communities as they need them, that’s just the work that needs doing most.