Expanding Local Food Infrastructure in Vermont

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.


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Vermont is awesome! They really have a great view on small farm production. This is a state that actually wants to see small farmers produce good local food and actually sell it to local people. So many states (like NY) are afraid of their small farmers and don't want to bother with the trouble of helping any of them out. They feel regulation and taxation are the best ways to approach farming. Bleh!

Go VT!

Then why is ACORN - one of the groups in the state so gung-ho on this - working so hard to set itself up as the "broker" for local foods so that it can "expand markets" when that means (in their own literature) expanding the markets to Boston? Isn't that exactly the opposite of localization?

Community supported Agriculture is a fascinating solution to the global food crisis, which really relies on the people rather than big government or big business. The popular solution of eliminating farm subsidies and letting the market decide has severe limitations. Ecologist Michael Huston in his articles “Biological diversity, soils, and economics”, “The global distribution of net primary production: resolving the paradox”, and “Precipitation, soils, NPP, and biodiversity: resurrection of Albrecht's curve” has shown how primary productivity is highest in the middle latitudes of the northern and western hemispheres. However, owing to the very limited land supply there, farming is most economic in low-productivity lands: the tropics, Australia and Southern Africa.

Huston argues that there should be efforts by governments in the Enriched World to conserve good land form farming, but this, and efforts to promote higher-density housing, have been a woeful failure in terms of creating high government debt and lowest-low fertility.

What the Enriched World really needs is to eliminate restrictions on land use by selling off public land. The very few infertile soils in the Enriched World - like the serpentines of the northern California coast - are easily economically conserved, as could high-diversity mountain ecosystems. International conservation groups really should limit their work to conservation of the “ancient lands”: Australia, Southern Africa and most of the tropics. These lands have high diversity but are so cheap that conservation is less economic than extensive farming; yet in the long-term their degradation would be irreparable.

By Julien Peter Benney (not verified) on 27 Jan 2013 #permalink

Sharon, I know Nate Hagens has been getting some traction with the military- in getting them to prepare for potential collapses of food supply chains.

I wonder if approaching your state's National Guard, and pointing out the regional security values of local food; and inviting them to participate and help plan- could be useful?

The Guard of course are your neighbors- in case of collapse, they're they ones who will be first responsible for emergency services and security. Now might be a good time to engage them.

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By i denna artikel (not verified) on 26 Feb 2013 #permalink