Tag Archives: local

Sodexo’s local move

At NOFA-VT, we’ve been working with food service giant Sodexo for four years now during the Winter Conference at UVM, and we’ve seen their capacity for and commitment to using local foods improve each year. We’re glad to see the change formalized in the company’s new “Vermont First” campaign.

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VT Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross applauded Sodexo’s move during a press conference on September 4. Photo by Abbie Nelson, NOFA-VT.

Sodexo is undeniably a multi-national corporation, and the move is certainly based off of market pressure rather than pure goodwill. Rather than seeing that as cause for suspicion, however, it can be considered a victory: Vermont’s support of and demand for local foods is strong enough to sway the purchasing decisions of a company that operates in 90 countries.

And while many Vermont producers do not currently operate at the scale Sodexo requires, an increase in institutional purchasing such as that done by Sodexo represents an opportunity for growth in a state already hip-deep in farmers’ markets and CSAs. New farmers or farmer cooperatives may be able to succeed in areas that otherwise would be saturated or, alternatively, may lack the population to support them through traditional direct marketing means.

Additionally, institutional purchasing makes local food immediately available to more people, including those who may not be otherwise engaged in the local foods movement.

It remains to be seen how much Sodexo will dedicate to the change — according to VTDigger, no official benchmarks have been set, though the company has hired a local foods coordinator. We hope to see real increases in local purchasing, which could fuel both the local and regional food economy. Even an incremental change in Sodexo’s Vermont purchasing habits will show up on 34,000 plates each day. That represents a great opportunity for farmers and consumers alike, as well as a potential model for other institutional buyers.

Farmers interested in selling to institutional markets are encouraged to fill out the Wholesale and Institutional Markets Survey, and to contact NOFA-VT if you would like technical assistance in business planning, creating contracts, or production.

(More information from VPR or VTDigger.)

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Farmers’ Market Week Winners!

NOFA and the Vermont Farmers’ Market Association held a “selfie” photo contest in honor of National Farmers’ Market Week, August 3-9. What an amazing week it was! Fresh air, sunshine, outstanding food, and awesome friends. What more could we want?

Thank you to all of our photo contest participants and everyone who voted for their favorite photo. It was great to see how much enthusiasm Vermonters have for our local food producers. And without further ado, here is our photo contest winner and runners up!

Karin Bellemare "Queen Beet and King Carrot" at the Barre Farmers' Market
Karin Bellemare at the Barre Farmers’ Market, 1st place

Karin wins a $100 gift certificate to the market of her choice, and the Barre Farmers’ Market, where her photo was taken, will receive a $100 advertising stipend from NOFA-VT.

Manolo Zelkin
Manolo Zelkin, 2nd place
Beth Wallace
Beth Wallace, 3rd place

Farmers’ Market Week may be over, but it is still high season for Vermont’s bounty, and farmers’ markets are the best place to find fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, baked goods, gifts, and more. Click here to find a market near you!

“Organic Matters” film debut at the Conference!

We are exited to debut our new short film, Organic Matters, as part of the NOFA Vermont Winter Conference FarmsTED talks this morning! If you didn’t join us to watch it on the big screen in the Davis Center (or if you just want to watch it again!), take a look:

This 9-minute video features certified organic farmers across Vermont talking about why they believe in certified organic, how it defines their approach to their land and to food production, and why organic is important to the overall food movement.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of certified organic, locally grown!

VTFMA Featured Market: West River Farmers’ Market

NOFA-VT and the Vermont Farmers Market Association (VTFMA) work closely to support farmers’ markets across the state. As more markets expand into winter sales, our “Featured Market” section has expanded through the winter as well!

The West River Farmers Market is now indoors! For the first time since it began its summer market in 1993, the West River Farmers Market will be operating a winter farmers’ market. Beginning October 19th and lasting until December 28th, the market will run every Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm. The market can be found indoors at the Flood Brook Union School, located at 91 Vermont 11, Londonberry, VT 05148. This new location is conveniently located just two miles west of its summer market location.

Learn more about West River Farmers’ Market…

For a complete directory of all VTFMA member markets, please visit our Farmers’ Market Directory. Past featured markets, market shopping tips, and resources for market vendors and managers are available at www.VTFMA.org.

Talking Farm to School

This pasphotot Saturday, Bear Pond Books in Montpelier hosted author Gail Gibbons and NOFA’s own Education Coordinator, Abbie Nelson, for a short discussion on local foods and their role in schools.

The two women discussed the incorporation of healthy practices into school systems and the importance of agricultural education for our youth. Amongst the crowd were several teachers from Barre Town School, and other educators across Washington County.

Throughout the talk, Abbie focused on the ways that Vermont FEED (a partnership between NOFA Vermont, Shelburne Farms, and Food Works) has worked statewide to get local food into schools. She discussed the importance of young students associating a fruit or vegetable on their plate with where it came from on a farm or in a garden.

Abbie also introduced the New School Cuisine cookbook, which will be released within the month to every school in Vermont as well as every Childhood Nutrition program throughout the nation. This cookbook includes a wide variety of farm fresh, healthy recipes in large serving sizes for cafeteria use. It allows students to associate with healthy foods on a daily basis in the classroom. Lastly, Abbie discussed the Nutrition Education Guide for schools. The Nutrition Education Guide serves as an educational tool for teachers to assess where they can incorporate nutrition education and the best ways to make it work.

BPBGail Gibbons, author and illustrator of over 150 children’s books, also spoke about her influence on child nutrition education. Originally in the film industry, Gail recognized the need for nutrition awareness while working with NBC television programs. After traveling to many different cities across the country for research, she acknowledged that many children did not know where their food came from. Her first book based on agriculture titled The Milk Makers goes into the development of milk in a cow and the processing it must go through to make it to the refrigerator. Other books include The Vegetables We Eat, Apples, Corn, and The Honey Makers. Check out Gail’s website and list of publications at http://www.gailgibbons.com/.

>> For more upcoming events that connect Vermont’s communities and farms, check out the second annual Agricultural Literacy Week, November 18-24.

[Post by NOFA Vermont intern Maggie Callahan]

FSMA Comment Deadline Fast Approaching!

The deadline to comment on the Food Safety Modernization Act is Friday, 11/15 – less than two weeks away.

FSMA webinar slideToday, we held a webinar in partnership with UVM and the Vermont Agency of Ag to help farmers (and other concerned citizens) craft meaningful and powerful comments.

Click here to view the slides from that presentation. (PDF)

The future of Vermont’s food system will be changed by this bill! Please take the time to make your voice heard.

To learn more about FSMA and its potential impact, take a look at our previous posts on the subject. We also recommend the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s easy-to-understand “toolkit” of information.

Farmers Talk: Lincoln Peak

Have you seen our new episode of Farmers Talk? It features an interview with Chris Granstrom of Lincoln Peak Vineyard and Winery, the largest grape producer in Vermont.

Chris gives a thorough overview of the development of cold-hardy grape varieties, what his workflow is like through the seasons, the wine making process, and his marketing techniques. He also discusses the current state and growth potential of the grape industry in Vermont. He is not organic (and explains why), but anyone who has considered getting into grape or wine production or who is just curious about Vermont’s emerging status as a wine producing region should find something of interest.

Also, note the new addition of a menu at the beginning of the video – if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, just click on the topic of interest and it will bring you directly to that point in the interview!

Feel free to post comments on our YouTube page and let us know what you think!

NFMW Video Contest Winners!

The Northeast Organic Farming Association and the Vermont Farmers’ Market Association are pleased to announce this year’s winner of the 5th annual National Farmers’ Market week film challenge! This year, we asked participants to submit videos that displayed their appreciation for the farmers and vendors that make their local market great.

This year, our first place prize goes to Stephen Pite for his video about the Capital City Farmers’ Market!

Second place goes to the Peacham Farmers’ Market,

and our third place winner is the Colchester Farmers’ Market.

Congratulations and a big thank you to all the participants who submitted videos to our film challenge, and don’t forget, this week (August 4th-10th) is National Farmers’ Market week – so get out there and show your love and support to the farmers and vendors that make your market great!

Small Farm Marketing at the NOFA Winter Conference

Most would think that the actual planting, growing, and harvesting process is the hardest part for many small local farmers. However, that seems to be the easier part when it comes to trying to distribute and sell these fresh, local products. There seems to be a slight disconnect between the farmers, their products, and the consumers who want and love these locally produced goods.

This problem was recognized and addressed at the recently held Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont winter conference. In a classroom setting farmers were able to gather valuable information from a professional on how to most effectively market their farm products to consumers. One issue that seemed to be a major problem from the consumer side was not realizing that ‘organic’ and ‘local’ do not mean the same thing. Consumers just assume that if something was grown local than that must mean it is organic. This leaves consumers wondering why they are paying so much more for ‘organic’ so they choose to not support local. This was a big point that the farmers should really take the time and educate their customers on the difference.

Another big talking point at the workshop was the understanding of whom the farmers are selling to and what are their average customer’s demographics. For example, the main motivator for parents when buying organic food is they are trying to provide healthy options for their family as much as possible. It was discussed that this could be a great selling point and some farmers did admit that once they started posting recipes using the food they were selling either at a farmers market or food stand it had a positive impact on sales.

As a non-farmer in a room full of farmers I began to realize that they were unaware of how great their product actually was, they almost took the high quality of their products for granted. Consumers are not used to buying the freshest products from a place like price chopper however once the realization is made that fresh food is at their fingertips I think the conversion would be a easy one to make for the consumer.

Guest blogger: Jackson Diebold