February 2022
Farm to Plate is Vermont’s food system plan being implemented statewide to increase economic development and jobs in the farm and food sector and improve access to healthy local food for all Vermonters.
What Network Groups Are You Interested In?
If you haven't already, please take a few minutes to fill out our survey regarding you/your organization’s interest in participating in our new Network groups – this will be extremely helpful as we convene new groups and transition from our current website to a new site in 2022.
Vermont Food System Plan Brief Highlight
Beer and Hops Product Briefs
The State of Vermont, with the most breweries per capita of any state in the country, has a huge opportunity to increase its production of local hops. Currently 300,000 pounds of hops are being used by Vermont breweries each year, yet less then 20,000 pounds of hops were grown locally as of 2019. Vermont’s short and challenging growing season has historically stunted the growth of the state’s hops industry. Additionally, the high costs involved with growing hops on a commercial scale, and a statewide brewery business model that was built to rely on the importation of hops with unique characteristics and flavor profiles, have also been significant barriers to increasing the production and use of local hops. Despite these challenges, hops have made a comeback due to recent innovations in production, breeding, and increased support from the local food movement. More recently Vermont breweries have increased their use of local barley, wheat, maple syrup, berries, apples, and grapes in their beers. Collectively these breweries employee close to 3,000 people and support the economic development of the state by drawing in a significant number of tourists to Vermont every year.

Key Points:
  • High infrastructure costs create doubt that hops are a viable agriculture enterprise.
  • Local supply of hops doesn’t meet the current need of local brewers due to the high cost of production, inconsistent supply, and lack of desirable varieties.
  • Current town infrastructure makes managing the wastewater from breweries a challenge that affects the growth of those breweries.
  • There is a need for grower support services, and UVM Extension has limited grant funding in this area.
  • The DLC’s rapid shift to allow curbside pickup and delivery of beer during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that innovative changes in the liquor laws were not harmful to the public and greatly benefit the industry as a whole.
  • There is a high-quality consumer perception of Vermont craft beer especially if it includes Vermont ingredients.
  • Reduction of environmental impacts related to beer production is being addressed by local Breweries who are working together to address carbon footprint, energy consumption, recycling, and water usage and treatment.

Recommendations Include:
Towns need state and federal funding to improve wastewater systems. Future legislation could include requiring equitable governance structures during the consideration of water and wastewater rate changes. Alcohol tax dollars could be reinvested into the Vermont beer sector as well as research, infrastructure, and substance abuse programs. The rules governing the sale and consumption of alcohol should be flexible to continued improvements and simplifications, such as direct to consumer sales and outside consumption for on-premises establishments. Funding should be increased for UVM Extension technical assistance services for the various hops growing concerns as well as hops marketing and economics expertise. Statewide incentives should be developed for Vermont brewers to produce beer with local hops, or incentives should be developed to purchase beer with local ingredients. Brewers and hopyards also need assistance with relationship building to increase visibility of local hops to consumers and build local demand.
Vermont Food System Plan Brief Highlight
Grapes and Spirits Product Briefs
The Vermont food system plan describes the economic potential of the fledgling grape and wine industry in Vermont. Wine grape varieties developed in Minnesota and Wisconsin have led to 200 acres of grapes being planted in Vermont. However, there is limited support from universities or industry groups in areas such as disease management, business development, financing, and branding. Skilled labor is also in short supply. Likewise, the distilled spirits industry in Vermont is only about 20 years old. This industry also needs additional support in the areas of regulatory reform, capital and marketing investment, and supply chain coordination between farmers, food businesses and distillers to continue to grow. There is also opportunity for distillers to source their base sugars from locally grown corn, rye, and malted barley.

Key Points:
  • Technical assistance is lacking for growers and winemakers.
  • The long development cycle of breeding Vermont climate appropriate grapes is an industry disadvantage.
  • Capital and financing are difficult for wineries and vineyards to attain, as are capital investments for new distillers.
  • The complex production process for spirits limits the ability for it to be added to a farm as a new enterprise.
  • Opportunities for collaborations between wineries, cideries, restaurants and farmers exist and could produce novel products.
  • Farming practices could be expanded to use alternative techniques that expand the value of Vermont grown grapes.
  • Vermont’s control state model for the sales of spirits makes expanding to unrestricted markets outside of Vermont challenging, but protects them as they build their brands in-state.
  • Numerous distilleries have established supply chain relationships with Vermont producers.
  • There is an opportunity to showcase Vermont grown elements of a spirts product, which would gain significantly more value from crops used on a limited basis.

Recommendations Include:
Provide funding for one or two full-time UVM Extension research and technical support staff with viticulture expertise. Review rules for wine sales that limit winery success, such as prohibiting wine sales by the glass in winery tasting rooms. Create a revenue source to support technical assistance and marketing programs, and Vermont Grape and Wine council operations. Cross state collaborations with universities, industry associations and business should be developed to expand opportunities available to Vermont Wine producers. Investments should be made in Statewide marketing for Vermont made and grown spirits and tourism. Better training opportunities for young Vermonters interested in fermenting, brewing and distilling careers should be created through a partnership between Vermont Technical College and DSCV. Corporate liquor influence should be reduced, while small business liquor interests should be promoted through updates to state polices. Investments should be made by the State of Vermont in the marketing of Vermont grown and made spirits and spirt related tourism. Best practices and in-state infrastructure should be developed to help distilleries forge relationships with local farmers and process specific products for use in distilling.
February is Black History Month
Online Event This Week - Thursday, 2/10 at 1pm
Offered through Soul Fire Farm, this is a virtual theory and action training for farming and food justice leaders to uproot systemic racism in our organizations and society. Delve deep into the history and structural realities of racial injustice and develop an understanding of the movement strategies of front-lines communities struggling for food sovereignty.
Support for Northeast Organic Family Farms
In August 2021, 89 organic family dairy farms across eastern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine were suddenly and unexpectedly notified that their contracts with Horizon Organic would not be renewed after the next year. Subsequently Maple Hill Creamery announced the cancellation of contracts for an additional 46 farms. Unless these farms (which in many cases have existed for generations) find alternate outlets, they will face dire financial futures, including closure for many. The only long-term solution for these farmers, and all of the region’s organic family farmers, is to encourage grocers, food co-ops, restaurants, and food service venues to commit to increasing their purchases from the brands who get their milk from these farms. In the case of the 135 at-risk farm families, quick action is needed to save their farms.
For more in-depth background and motive behind the Northeast Organic Farms Partnership, we recommend watching this interview with Stonyfield Co-Founder Gary Hirschberg at the Real Organic Symposium.
Report on the Future of Vermont Agriculture
In 2021, Governor Phil Scott named 12 members to the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Vermont Agriculture to study and strategize how best to grow agriculture in the Green Mountain State. In creating the report, the Commissioners shared ideas, and tapped the expertise of young farmers, members of the public, and organizations working on environmentally sound farming practices, climate adaptation and resilience, and diversity.
Started in July 2020, Vermont Everyone Eats has been approved to continue through April 1, 2022. More than 260 Vermont restaurants have prepared two million meals for residents impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, using ingredients purchased from more than 300 Vermont farmers and food producers.
Refrigeration to Help Cool the Planet
Brattleboro startup, Grid Fruit, provides tools for grocers to optimize energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Co-founder Jesse Thornburg says that most U.S. stores don’t measure refrigeration separately from store consumption as a whole, let alone use that data in day-to-day decision making. The company helps grocers be responsive to alerts sent from utilities to shift power to or away from certain times of day depending on anticipated load on the grid.

“The total effect is reduced demand during peak times which is good for global warming and, because it reduces expensive spikes in energy use, good for the business owner as well,” said Thornburg. “The two work hand in hand.”
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Food System Jobs
Black Dirt Farm, Crops Manager
Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center, Sales Manager, Lead Educator, Summer Camp Instructors
Common Roots, Production Farm Manager
Food Connects, Marketing Coordinator
Green Mountain Farm to School, Americorps Farm to School Coordinator
Green Mountain Farm to School, Development and Communications Manager
Green Mountain Compost, Office Attendant
Kids Gardening, Administrative Coordinator
Mad River Taste Place, Cheesemonger/Retail Leader
Meach Cove Farms, Project Coordinator
Red Wagon Plants, Retail Team
Salvation Farms, Administrative Coordinator
Trenchers Farmhouse, Sous Chef
V Smiley Preserves, Head Jammer/Production Lead
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, Agriculture Development Specialist
Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA), Agricultural Loan Assistant
Vermont Foodbank, Community Kitchen Academy
Vermont Packing House, Meat Cutter Butcher
Vermont Public Health Association, District Liaison
White River Land Collaborative, Project Coordinator

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Vermont Food System News is published by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund
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Jake Claro, Farm to Plate Director
Kelly Nottermann, Communications Director
Beret Halverson, Program Coordinator
Becka Warren, Food Security Plan Project Manager
Ellen Kahler, Executive Director

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Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, 3 Pitkin Court, Suite 301E, Montpelier, VT 05602