Getting Serious about Food Systems: Vermont’s Farm to Plate

In recent years, many states and communities have embraced food systems and ag/food sector development as core economic development strategies.  This is a field with lots of innovation and creativity underway, but one of my favorite efforts has been Vermont’s Farm to Plate programming.  This effort kicked off in 2009, and, since then, a wide and deep statewide network has been pushing goals of supporting sustainable economic development, improving soil and environmental quality, and ensuring that every Vermont resident has access to healthy local food.  The effort can point to many achievements, but the local ag sector has been hit by many challenging outside forces as well.  These include a collapsing dairy industry, climate change impacts, and hopefully only limited impacts from the current coronavirus crisis. In an effort to spur action, share lessons learned, and chart new directions, a new 2020 Food System Plan for Farm to Plate was released earlier this year.  It’s definitely worth a read even if you’re not a Vermonter.  It offers an excellent review of recent trends in ten food sectors (e.g. dairy, cider, hemp) and nine issue clusters (e.g. access to capital, changing consumer demand, agritourism trends) that are relevant to food systems development and support.   A whole host of additional issue briefs is to be published throughout 2020 as well.  This is a great place to not only learn about Vermont’s model efforts, but also about the opportunities and challenges of supporting food systems development in your region as well.  You can learn more and sign up for updates here.