New Plan to Strengthen Vermont’s Agriculture and Food System Released
Montpelier, Vt. – The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund through its Farm to Plate Initiative, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) have released the Vermont Agriculture and Food System Strategic Plan 2021-2030.
With over 1,500 Vermonters providing input and helping to shape its content over an 18-month period, the Plan lays out a vision, 15 goals, 34 priority strategies, and 276 recommendations for advancing the agriculture and food system in Vermont. Focus groups with over 120 Vermont industry members such as beef, dairy, sheep and goat, maple, vegetable and berry producers, Vermont Cheese Council board members, farmers market managers, specialty food association members, and Farm to School leaders were also convened to give input that helped shape the Plan.
“The meetings with community stakeholders and producers informed the vision of the Plan, validated the key findings and recommendations, and prioritized action steps that will support the growth and viability of each of these agricultural industries,” says Jake Claro, Farm to Plate director at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. “While we have made great progress over the past ten years, the global COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how much more we still have to do to strengthen our state and regional food system, shorten supply chains and expand our ability to feed Vermonters.”
The Plan provides in-depth insights across 54 product, market and issue briefs which are the foundation for its goals and strategies. The briefs were written by 149 experts, including many farmers, food business owners, producer associations, VAAFM personnel and other knowledgeable stakeholders. They examine the bottlenecks, gaps, and opportunities specific to the topic, and recommend strategies to advance them.
“This is an impressive step as we look to the future of agriculture. We will use this Plan and work with our important partners, including the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund,” says Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts. “We are very excited to build on the progress we have already made to grow the economy, make Vermont more affordable and protect the most vulnerable. This report will guide us for years to come.”
The Plan contains an easy-to-use explanation of how to navigate the document and promises insight for just about anyone working in agriculture and the food system. For producers there are briefs that pertain to their particular products such as dairy, goats, grains, and much more, briefs that provide insight on various market channels such as grocery stores, restaurants, and others, and briefs that cover a range of issues including climate change, consumer demand, marketing, supporting future farmers, and more. While the entire plan is 202 pages long, each section can be reviewed on its own and still provides helpful information and insights.
“We wanted to publish the Plan in a way that is accessible and relevant to a wide range of farmers, food producers and food system advocates,” says Ellen Kahler, executive director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. “The only way we’re going to accomplish these goals is if we all work together to make the Vermont food system better for everyone involved.”
The Plan and all the individual briefs can be downloaded at www.vtfarmtoplate/plan.
About the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) is a nonprofit organization committed to nurturing the sustainable development of Vermont’s economy. VSJF provides business assistance, network development, strategic planning, and value chain facilitation in agriculture and food system, forest product, waste management, renewable energy, and environmental technology sectors. The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund was created by the Vermont Legislature in 1995 to partner with state government, private sector businesses, and nonprofits to build a thriving economic, social, and ecological future for Vermont. VSJF administers Vermont Farm to Plate.