Keeping you informed on the latest in our region's food system, from soil to soil: production, processing, distribution, access, and consumption to compost and waste management.

NEK Food System News & Updates
Welcome! This is the very first of our regular updates on the Northeast Kingdom's Food System. Please forward to others you think may be interested!
The 2016 NEK Food System Plan is ready and available online!

Thank you to the many individuals and organizations who provided input into this comprehensive update and five-year action plan -- and many thanks to USDA Rural Development, whose grant funding made this update possible.

The publication of this plan is the culmination of a two-year collaboration between the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA)  and the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE). But, as you will read in the five year action plan, the real work has just begun. This newsletter is part of the ongoing outreach to establish a coordinated Regional Leadership Team. 
Storage and Distribution Report for Local Food in the Northeast Kingdom

Getting product to market remains a critical challenge for many of our farmers and food producers. As a supplement to the 2016 NEK Food System Update, the CAE and NVDA commissioned the Storage and Distribution Report for Local Food in the Northeast Kingdom, an exploration of existing or under-utilized resources for moving product to market cost effectively. As many of our smaller producers share resources, such as trucking and warehouse space, the study also identifies best practices for sustainable and cost-effective partnership.

Read the study here.
...Plus New Findings from NVDA's Transportation Feasibility
This just-released study completed by Rose Wilson and Resource Systems Group builds on the insights gained from the Storage and Distribution Report. While the feasibility study's primary goal was to explore a  shared-use refrigerated delivery vehicle, their research uncovered many timely and relevant findings:

  • The average cost of transportation for food fleets in Vermont is roughly $1.30/mile, vs nationwide cost of about $0.76/mi. 
  • Producers and shippers should consider leasing over owning if their expenses average higher than $1.30/mi -- or they drive 15,000 miles or more per year.
  • The study identifies the number of businesses willing to provide "freight shipping" service so producers can focus on aggregation but have a logistics expert conduct the pick up and delivery of products.
  • Finally, the study contains a cost matrix of the value of product that must to be on the truck to break even, based on a variety of profit margins. 
Food System Updates

Green Mountain Farm-to-School has released its Annual Report for 2015-2016. They currently serve 51% of all students in the NEK by maintaining school gardens, offering nutrition and agricultural programming, and sourcing fresh local food. GMFTS is welcoming James Hafferman as the organization's next executive director, as founder Katherine Sims transitions to development director in the coming year. Green Mountain Farm Direct, GMFTS's regional food hub, reports sales of more than $350,000 to schools and institutions over the past year, benefiting 34 farmers and food producers. In fact, GMFD's partnership with the Northeast Regional Correctional Facility (NERCF) in St. Johnsbury was recently profiled in Seven Days. NERCF estimates that Vermont-grown food accounts for about 4% to 5% of its $360,000 annual food expenditure budget. In addition to eating fresh and local, inmates have an opportunity to learn the how-tos of food service and preparation, much-needed skills that can prepare them for a successful re-entry.

The Vermont Land Trust's Annual Report for 2015-2016 features farmland conservation projects in Barnet, Brownington, Craftsbury, Greensboro, Holland, Derby, Newport, Troy, and St. Johnsbury. The 35-acre Roots Too Farm -- home to the iconic century-old Locust Grove Farm Barn in East St. Johnsbury -- is the cover story of VLT's annual report. Susan Monahan and Hisa Kominami, who operate a CSA and maintain a steady following at the Caledonia Farmers' Market in St. Johnsbury, were able to acquire the property through VLT's Farmland Access Program. In Brownington, Heather and Adam Moulton also were able to purchase and conserve a 134-acre, certified organic farm through VLT's Farmland Access Program. The farm's previous owners, Neal and Rebekah Perry, had purposely sold the land to VLT so that the property could remain in agriculture. 

Can we interest you in some goats? If you are familiar with the NEK Food System Plan, you know that the Plan supports regional efforts to bring more value to Vermont's dairy goat farming through goat meat processing. Specifically we aim to promote opportunities to farmers who may be interested in raising goats on forage/open land. If you are thinking of raising meat goats, you may take heart in these findings from a six-year study at Texas A&M, which show that properly managed meat goats are valuable property -- even if you only keep a few animals. Data also indicate a rise in goat prices over the study period. The study is featured in the October 31 edition of On Pasture, which highlights research and experience on making grazing operations more successful. You can read the article here.

Do you have news to share? Please drop me a line at In the meantime, thank you for all you do in promoting and expanding our region's food system. All the best to you in 2017!

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NVDA is the regional planning and development organization serving Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans Counties, and is an equal opportunity lender, provider, and employer.