This Valentine’s Day, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets is taking a moment to proclaim its love for Vermont’s farmers.
“The Vermont we know and love simply would not exist without the hardworking women and men who dedicate their lives to agriculture,” says Vermont’s Ag Secretary, Anson Tebbetts. “Farmers provide food, create jobs, keep our landscape open, and support our local communities. Farmers deserve our adoration!”
Tebbetts thinks Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion for Vermonters to profess their fond feelings for farmers.
“There are so many reasons to love Vermont agriculture, it’s nearly impossible to count the ways,” Tebbetts added.
But here’s a start…
Ten Reasons to Love Vermont Farmers
- There are over 7,300 farms in Vermont, and each is unique.
- Vermont is known for its dairy and maple industries, but our agriculture runs the gambit. Vermont farmers are raising and growing all the things you might expect on a farm, like chickens, hogs, pumpkins, and corn, and some unique things you might not – like saffron, emu, rabbits, and crickets.
- Maple syrup is our signature product, and we make more of it than any other state in the country – a whopping 47% of the country’s syrup is made right here in Vermont.
- Vermont is the leading agricultural state in New England, with more agricultural sales than any state in the region. Our Ag Economy is greater than Rhode Island’s, New Hampshire’s, and Massachusetts, combined.
- We have more farmers’ markets per capita than any other state.
- 94% of our schools serve local foods, grown close to home by Vermont farmers. That’s 80,000 students who “eat local” in their cafeterias.
- For a chilly state, we have a robust and growing wine industry. Marquette, Frontenac, and La Crescent grapes grow well in Vermont, and we have some very talented vintners making outstanding local wines.
- Vermont dairy farmers produce enough milk annually to fill 16,000 swimming pools – 321 million gallons. More than 67% of New England’s milk is made right here in Vermont.
- Vermont’s Ag Economy is growing – in the past ten years, sales of agricultural products in Vermont have increased by 64%.
- Collectively, Vermont farms encompass more than 1.25 million acres. Our farmers care for the land by implementing conservation practices, and keep our landscape open, green, and beautiful. Without farms, Vermont would look very different!
These are just a few reasons – there are so many more.
“Thank you, Vermont farmers, for all you do!” Tebbetts adds. “Wishing you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day!”
Vermont Students Impacted by Farm to School Programming Expands to 40,000
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Students and teachers representing nearly 20 schools from across Vermont crowded into the Statehouse Cafeteria in Montpelier on Wednesday along with legislators, government officials, and Vermont Farm to School Network leaders to celebrate Farm to School Awareness Day and honor 2017 grant winners. Over $121,000 in grants and technical supports were awarded to 13 schools, representing 10 Vermont counties, for the purpose of growing and developing farm to school programs. This year’s Farm to School grants will expand the reach of the Vermont Farm to School Program by 5,000 students, raising the total number of Vermont students with increased access to fresh, healthy, locally grown foods and nutrition education through the grant program to 40,000.
Among those who spoke at the celebratory event were Governor Phil Scott, Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe, Senator Bobby Starr, Betsy Rosenbluth from Vermont Farm to School Network, students and teachers from BFA Fairfax, and Farm to School Grant Program Manager Ali Zipparo from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM).
“Farm to school programs are incredibly important to Vermont’s future, and I am so proud of the progress we have made since Rozo McLaughlin introduced the original Farm to School Bill in 2006,” said Representative Mitzi Johnson. “They are making sure our young people are aware of what kinds of foods are good for their bodies and where that food comes from. All of you in this room are making this happen and I am thrilled.”
Other event highlights included remarks from Shannon Mahoney and Caitlin Allan, student leaders of the BFA Fairfax Farm to School Club. “Our program started out so small,” said Mahoney. “Just a couple of kids and a few teachers. Now we have over 70 students and teachers in the club and a huge amount of support from our community. It’s very exciting.”
“We take our farm to school program very seriously,” said BFA Fairfax Farm to School Program leader and English teacher Fred Griffin. “It’s not just an opportunity to play in the dirt. The educational opportunities are enormous; students learn everything from soil science to food preservation. There are proficiencies available to students across the entire range of disciplines.”
The Vermont Farm to School Grant Program, now in its eleventh year, works to improve nutrition among Vermont’s children by connecting food producers to their local schools, as well as providing enriched educational experiences and curricula. This year was the first year of the Universal Meals Grant Program, a new grant within the Farm to School grant program that provides funding for schools to transition to a school meal program that provides breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost.
“Access to high quality nutrition is a key tool closing the achievement gap between children from high and low-income families,” said Secretary of Education, Rebecca Holcombe. “Vermont is a national standout in our commitment to bringing the bounty of our local farms to the plates of our children. Vermont knows that if we tolerate poor nutrition for our children, we manufacture inequity at the level of the brain. Because of that, we refuse to allow our children to not have access to good nutrition. We are proudly and profoundly making sure not only that our children have enough to eat, but that what they eat includes the best our fields can grow.”
This year, four Planning grants were awarded, four Implementation grants, and five Universal Meals grants. The grantees include:
- Bellows Free Academy Fairfax
- Cornwall School
- Guilford Central School
- Flood Brook School
- Albany Community School
- Concord School
- Currier Memorial School
- Mill River Unified Union School District
- Lamoille Union High School
Universal Meals Grants:
1. Craftsbury Schools
2. Currier Memorial School
3. Poultney Elementary School
4. St. Johnsbury School
5. Windsor State Street School
“Farm-to-School is great for the farmer, schools, students and growing the local economy,” said Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts who presented the certificates, along with the Governor and Agriculture’s Deputy Secretary Alyson Eastman, to students from each school. “Congratulations to all the grant recipients.”
The grant ceremony marked the end of a busy day in the Statehouse, during which farm to school stakeholders provided testimony to agriculture and education committees in support of farm to school programming. An update to the Rozo McLaughlin Farm to School Act, (S. 33), has been introduced this session and a full Sentate vote is expected in the next few weeks. Additionally, a resolution, introduced by Representative Partridge, was passed yesterday officially declaring February 8th, Farm to School Awareness Day.
For more information about the Vermont Farm to School Program, visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/farm_school
428 New Full-Time Jobs Created and $18.1 Million in Increased Sales
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Since its inception in 2012, the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI) has invested over $3.8 million dollars in 129 projects impacting every county of the state, leveraging $7.4 million in additional funds. Over the last 5 years, working lands grantees have created 428 new full-time jobs and generated $18.1 million in new sales. Additionally, 98% of Working Lands grantees report expanding into new markets, 45% report enhanced environmental stewardship, and 30% report increased employee wages as a result of their grant.
On Thursday, January 26, 2017 the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative annual report was submitted to the Vermont Legislature accompanied by a short presentation and testimony from state leaders and past grantees. Among those who provided supporting remarks during the presentation were Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts, Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation Michael Snyder, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Ted Brady, Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, and Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe. Four past grant recipients also presented overviews of their businesses and working lands projects, and discussed challenges and opportunities facing their sectors, including Jon Blatchford of JK Adams in Bennington County, Andy Boutin of Renewable Fuels of Vermont in Windsor County, Myles and Rhonda Goodrich of Molly Brook Farm in Caledonia County, and Calley Hastings of Fat Toad Farm in Orange County.
Lila Bennett, owner of Tangletown Farm in West Glover received a $15,000 grant in 2016 to increase and improve their infrastructure for pasture laying hens and egg production. She said, “Receiving a Working Lands Grant enabled us to scale up our hen and egg operation to a sustainable level, as well as improve our infrastructure, increasing efficiency and productivity. Scaling up is expensive and hard for small farms to accomplish quickly. The Working Lands Grant gave us the boost we needed to be truly profitable and successful. Our farm is thriving with happy, healthy hens, in large part thanks to Working Lands.”
"Working lands grantees represent some of the best of Vermont. These businesses and service providers are harnessing our landscape in ways that keep it working and beautiful, while also creating jobs and growing their local communities. I'm very excited to engage with this board and these businesses in the years to come,” said Agriculture Secretary, Anson Tebbetts.
The full Working Lands Enterprise Initiative 2016 Annual Report can be found here: http://workinglands.vermont.gov/node/763
For more information about grant recipients in your area, visit: http://workinglands.vermont.gov/projects
The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, (Act 142), is administered by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets in partnership with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. The Working Lands funds are administered by the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB), an impact investment organization whose mission is to grow the economies, cultures, and communities of Vermont’s working landscape by making essential, catalytic investments in critical leverage points of the Vermont farm and forest economy, from individual enterprises to industry sectors. For more information, visit http://workinglands.vermont.gov/
In an effort to demonstrate the economic value of Farm to School, the Center for Rural Studies (CRS) at the University of Vermont recently conducted an economic impact study of local food procurement by Vermont schools for the Vermont Farm to School Network with funding provided by the Vermont Community Foundation. Key findings from the study include:
- Vermont schools spent $915,000—or 5.6% of all food purchased—on local foods during the 2013-2014 school year;
- Every dollar Vermont schools spent on local food contributed an additional sixty cents to the local economy, resulting in a $1.4 million overall contribution to Vermont’s economy;
- If 75% of Vermont schools doubled their local food spending (from 5.6% to 11.2%) the total economic impact would increase to $2.1 million.
The results and implications of this economic impact study will be the topic of a workshop at the 2016 Vermont Farm to School Conference on November 3rd. If you are interested in attending the conference, learn more and register here.
The full report, “Economic Contribution and Potential Impact of Local Food Purchases Made by Vermont Schools,” can be found here.
This study demonstrates the positive impact Farm to School programming has on our local economy by supporting food producers, thereby allowing them to grow their businesses and support other businesses like distributors and retail outlets. Just imagine the possibilities if more of the remaining 94.4% of food budgets was spent on local products!
The findings of this study help to measure the Farm to School Network’s progress towards their goal of having 75% of Vermont schools purchasing at least 50% of their food from local or regional sources by 2025. As the findings indicate, Vermont schools have quite a way to go to meet the Network goal, but the economic impact of meeting the goal would be highly beneficial for the state.
Farm to school programming in schools doesn’t only have positive impacts on the economy. It also has educational and health benefits for students. Farm to School programs enhance nutrition education, promote agricultural literacy, and serve as a platform to incorporate all subjects in an engaging and tactile way. Moreover, they help expose students to a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are critical to a healthy lifestyle. Vermont schools with Farm to School programs have reported twice the national average in vegetable consumption and students who know a farmer or grow their own food indicate that they eat more fruits and vegetables. Improved student health also has long-term economic implications in the form of reduced healthcare expenditures in the future.
Almost all Vermont schools are engaged in Farm to School at some level, and we are working hard to make sure that this programming is strong in every school throughout the state, incorporating Farm to School into the classroom, cafeteria and community. With such a robust Farm to School movement in our state, we have a great opportunity to expand our food and farm economies by supporting the procurement of local food in schools.
If you’d like to learn more about the study or the Farm to School Network, please contact Ali Zipparo at Alexandra.Zipparo@vermont.gov or (802) 505-1822.