Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund launches new Farm to Plate Initiative

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Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund launches new Farm to Plate Initiative

Mon, 07/20/2009 - 7:42am -- tim

The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) announced today that is has officially launched the Farm to Plate Initiative, has named a 15 member Strategic Planning Process Team and has hired Kit Perkins as the Initiative s project manager.
The Farm-to-Plate Initiative aims to bolster Vermont s food system by quantifying market potential and pin-pointing critical bottlenecks, especially in processing and storage infrastructure and distribution systems so that more of Vermont s agricultural products can be enjoyed by Vermonters and throughout the Northeast, said Ellen Kahler, Executive Director of the VSJF.  She went on to say that, A ten year strategic food system plan, which will be one of the main deliverables from this initiative, will help determine where future investments should be made, thereby leading to more jobs and overall agricultural economic activity.
During the 2009 Legislative session, Representatives Chris Bray and Jason Lorber, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) and Rural Vermont collaborated to secure passage of legislation (Act 54) which called for the creation of a Farm to Plate Investment Program.  The ultimate purpose of the program is to foster economic development and job growth in the farm and food sector.
While Vermont is a strong agricultural state, we still purchase 97% of our food from out of state at an annual cost of $2.6 billion, said Representative Bray, who serves on the VT House Agriculture Committee.
As we rebuild our food system, we will not only keep more food dollars in Vermont and strengthen our farm economy, but because these dollars circulate locally, we will also strengthen our entire rural economy.
Will Patten, executive director of VT Businesses for Social Responsibility, added, "The Farm to Plate Initiative is the culmination of a series of VBSR discussions with our business members and with agricultural leaders that concluded that agriculture in Vermont could stop the hemorrhaging of hard-earned dollars and become an engine of economic development. We are thrilled that the Sustainable Jobs Fund is going to quantify this opportunity for Vermont."
The VSJF also announced that is has hired Kit Perkins, formerly of the Intervale Center in Burlington, to be the Project Manager for this new initiative.  Kahler said, we are very excited to have Kit Perkins join our team as she has nearly 25 years of experience in planning and community economic development and a deep commitment to and passion for agriculture in Vermont.   Besides her 4 years at the Intervale (2004-2008), Perkins was a founding member and trustee of Sustainable Seattle, where she helped author the groundbreaking document, Indicators of Sustainability. From 1999-2003 she served as Vice President with New Ecology, Inc. in Cambridge, MA.  Perkins earned a B.A. in urban planning with honors from the University of Vermont and a Master of Urban Planning and Design from the University of Washington.
A 15 member Strategic Planning Process Team has also been named to assist VSJF Staff and Researchers over the coming year.  They will serve as an advisory board of the Initiative, focusing on how best to engage the broader agricultural community to provide critical content to the ten year strategic plan.  Process Team members include: Roger Allbee (Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets); Marie Audet (Blue Spruce Farm); Stacy Burnstein (Castanae Foundation); Megan Camp (VT-FEED); Guy Choiniere (Choiniere Family Farm); Eric Clifford (Clifford Dairy Farm); Paul Costello (VT Council on Rural Development); Brian Dunkiel (Shems Dunkiel Kassel & Saunders); Amanda Ellis-Thurber (Lilac Ridge Farm); Bill Schubart (formerly of Resolution, Inc.); Will Stevens (Golden Russet Farm); Ryan Torres (VT Community Foundation); Steve Voigt (King Arthur Flour); Tom Vogelmann (UVM College of Agriculture & Life Sciences); Enid Wonnacott (NOFA-Vermont).
Members were selected for their deep understanding of the food and farm sector in Vermont and not necessarily for their organizational affiliation.
Recently, the Farm to Plate Initiative was included as part of the agenda for a national webinar hosted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "We re receiving tremendous support from Vermonters, and because of the webinar, we re fielding calls from California, Maine, and across the U.S.," said Representative Lorber, who serves on the VT House Commerce & Economic Development Committee.  "Other states want to craft similar programs that create jobs and strengthen their Buy Local movement as well."
Rural Vermont sees the Farm to Plate Initiative as a critical component to our goal of food sovereignty for Vermont and economic viability for its farmers, said Brian Moyer, the new executive director of Rural Vermont. A smoother road for farmers to bring their bounty to market will create a more stable and vibrant economy. Historically, this has always been true.
Funding for this initiative is being made possible through Vermont ARRA stimulus funds, the Vermont Community Foundation, anonymous foundations, the John Merck Fund, and the High Meadows Fund.
Source: VSJF