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Thinking about Local-to-Regional in Vermont

Produce in the cooler at City MarketVermonters who love local food usually think “Vermont” when they think “local.”

But Vermont farmers and food businesses operate at different scales and sell products to all types of markets. With more than 33 million potential customers in New England and New York, regional markets are increasingly important for our statewide producers and processors. Increasing their access to regional grocery stores, restaurants and institutions–where the large majority of New England’s food is purchased—is necessary to significantly expand markets for Vermont—grown products and increase farm profitability, two specific Farm to Plate goals.

Farm to Plate is Vermont’s statewide initiative to grow Vermont’s farm and food economy and improve access to healthy local food for all Vermonters. A 10-year food system plan, launched in 2010, to strengthen the working landscape, build the resilience of farms and food enterprises, improve environmental quality, and increase healthy, local food access for all Vermonters is being implemented by more than 300 farm and food sector organizations across the state.

Vermont farmers who want to operate at a certain scale often find that they need customers beyond Vermont’s borders. Customers throughout New England often think of Vermont as “regional” and their next place to purchase from after purchasing products from their own state. Similarly, here in Vermont we can broaden the definition of “local” by including regional suppliers when certain items can’t be locally sourced. In other words, it’s better to buy from Maine than México.

Even with a strong local food movement, we are far too reliant on food grown and distributed outside of our region and on decisions made outside of our control. Supporting “regional” after “Vermont” is increasingly important as the New England states work to define the regional food shed.

Each of the New England states is participating in the “New England Food Vision”—an aspiration to regionally produce at least 50 percent of the fresh, fair, and accessible food consumed by New Englanders by 2060. Vermont has been assisting the other New England states in food system planning, as we have the most comprehensive food system plan in the country—known as Farm to Plate.

Learn more at www.VTFarmtoPlate.com.

Local cider at City Market

Jehshua's Chimichurri at City Market

Photos courtesy of City Market.