The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund was created by the Vermont Legislature with the mission to accelerate the development of the state’s green economy. The organization provides early stage grant funding, technical assistance, and loans to entrepreneurs, businesses, farmers, and networks to develop jobs. As a part of this organization, Farm to Plate Vermont works to develop jobs while increasing access to healthy food and strengenthing the state’s food system.
Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Rachel Carter, Communications Director for Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.
Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?
Rachel Carter (RC): Farm to Plate is Vermont’s statewide food system plan to increase farm and food sector economic development and jobs and improve access to healthy local food for all Vermonters. The ten year Farm to Plate Strategic Plan (currently in its fourth year) is strengthening the working landscape, building the resilience of farms and food enterprises, improving environmental quality, and increasing healthy, local food access by relocalizing food production and distribution. From 2007 to 2012 food system economic output in Vermont expanded 24 percent, from US$6.9 billion to $8.6 billion and created 4,189 new jobs (7.2 percent increase) from 2009 to 2013. By many accounts, Vermont has developed the most comprehensive food system plan in the country and the first of its kind in New England. Vermont works closely with each of the New England states to promote a regional food vision aimed at producing 50 percent of the food consumed in New England by 2060.
FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?
RC: Vermont’s food system plan is being implemented by the Farm to Plate Network – over 350 non-profits, businesses, institutions, and government agencies working collaboratively using the collective impact framework. It is how all of these different players come together to create the system change necessary to relocalize the food system that is making such an impact in Vermont. We are better aligned with our actions, we are sharing knowledge as change happens in the marketplace, we are building stronger relationships with other another, and we are collaborating as Network of organizations like never before.
FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?
RC: Vermont will continue to collectively implement the state’s Farm to Plate goals through 2020 at which point we hope the systems will be built for local food to become mainstream so that Vermont food becomes available and accessible for all Vermonters. The Farm to Plate Network is currently working to open the retail market channel and get Vermont food into independent grocery and retail stores and provide technical assistance for store owners; to get more local products into the retail market and provide technical assistance for producers to become wholesale ready, and to increase consumer demand by developing a statewide local food campaign.
FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?
RC: Read the label that says where something has been produced, buy as much from local producers as you can, then from the region—this sends an important signal to the marketplace, and that is how food systems can relocalize.
FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?
RC: Individuals can learn more about Vermont’s state food system plan and the progress being made to relocalize Vermont’s food system at www.vtfarm2plate.com and are invited to explore the Farm to Plate Food Atlas – the interactive mapping database of Vermont’s entire food system. We invite individuals and organizations to learn more about how to support Farm to Plate or to volunteer with a Farm to Plate Network organization and help keep Vermont’s food system work robust!
Download the 2015 Good Food Org Guide HERE.