For over a decade, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) has partnered with other government agencies and nonprofit partners to increase the amount of local food purchased by schools, correctional facilities, colleges, and hospitals. We provide support for this work in a variety of ways that include facilitating meetings, funding projects, conducting research, convening stakeholders, and connecting producers and consumers to resources. Read more about our work related to specific markets below.
Producers, Consumers, and Markets
VAAFM participates in several innovative partnerships focused on engaging producers, educating consumers, and understanding markets to enhance farm to institution work. A 2008 law established a multi-agency team focused on local purchasing in state government. The law did not a required benchmark for local purchasing, as a percentage of total purchases, but it did enable a multi-agency partnership to work on innovative and strategic projects aimed at increasing the amount of local product purchased by state government. Some specific outcomes of this work include increasing the amount of local food purchased by the Department of Corrections (DOC) and increasing healthy food options at Vermont state parks.
In 2014, VAAFM collaborated with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) to develop and administer a survey of Vermont producers to better understand food and farm businesses that are currently engaged or interested in selling to institutions and wholesale markets. This report demonstrates growing interest in and viability of wholesale markets and offers suggestions for technical assistance to Vermont producers. Read the full report.
Farm to College
VAAFM collaborated with NOFA-VT and The University of Vermont (UVM) to interview higher education food service operations throughout the state about opportunities and barriers to increasing local food procurement. The project was commissioned by the Vermont Farm to Plate Aggregation & Distribution Working Group as a means of achieving Goal 2 of the Vermont Farm to Plate Strategic Plan—increasing local food served in Vermont institutions. This report outlines current local food procurement practices at higher education institutions in Vermont, compares current practices to best practices documented in other publications from around New England, and offers recommendations for increasing local food procurement in Vermont colleges and universities. Read the full report.
Farm to Corrections
Through a multi-agency team focused on local purchasing in state government, the Vermont DOC has established an internal system for tracking local purchases. The tracking system allowed the state to establish baseline metrics, to measure progress in increase local purchases at DOC. In 2018, local product purchases represented 9% of total food purchases in DOC. This work has primarily focused on connecting producers and procurement professionals and identifying opportunities to buy more local products for use across state government. Corrections facilities, the largest buyer of food in state government, are a huge opportunity for increasing the total amount of Vermont products purchased by the State of Vermont. These efforts have initiated innovative solutions and will continue to grow. Read an article about this work.
Farm to Healthcare
Throughout Vermont and in many other states, the healthcare industry is prioritizing local food purchasing, to increase positive health outcomes and to meet community development goals, to invest in the local economy. Much of this momentum started with the work of Healthcare Without Harm. VAAFM engages in this work through membership in the Farm to Plate Health Crosscutting Team and partnering with organizations like Farm to Institution New England, and NOFA-VT on projects related to supply chain evaluation, facilitation, and innovation.
Farm to School
VAAFM has administered the Vermont Farm to School and Early Childcare Grant Program since 2006. Enabled by the Rozo McLaughlin Farm to School Act of 2006 (6 V.S.A. § 4721), the grant program helps schools develop and sustain relationships with local producers, enrich the educational experience of children, improve the health of Vermont children, and enhance Vermont’s agricultural economy.
Beyond the grant program, the agency collaborates on several strategic initiatives that aim to increase demand for local food in schools, make farm to school more accessible for Vermont schools, and shape policies that better integrate farm to school into classrooms, cafeterias, and communities. Learn more about the Vermont Farm to School Program and access several reports VAAFM has published on the Vermont Farm to School Program webpage.