Farm to Institution is Thriving in Vermont

Rachel Carter, Vermont Farm to Plate Network

Vermont Farm to Plate Network Highlights Farm to Institution Initiatives 

Originally published in the October issue of Vermont Food System News, the monthly Vermont Farm to Plate newsletter.

It's easy to get confused by all of the Farm to ... efforts to strengthen our food system. There's Farm to Plate, Farm to School, Farm to Institution, Farm to Hospital, Farm to Table, just to name a few. 

The farm to school movement in Vermont pre-dates farm to plate, and is nationally recognized because of its efforts to connect healthy food from local farms to K-12 school children and youth. The Vermont Farm to School Network is comprised of advocates and practitioners who collaboratively run programs to advance greater food system awareness in our classrooms, cafeterias and communities. Many Vermont Farm to School Network members are active members of the broader Farm to Plate Network, and activities are being coordinated to maximize shared goals.  

To better align their varied activities, the farm to school community recently completed a robust systems mapping process that led to a new statewide strategy: By 2025, 75% of Vermont schools will lead the cultural shift to a values-based food system that engages 75% of our students in integrated food system education; community-based learning; nourishing universal meals; and the experience of self-efficacy; purchasing at least 50% from a socially just and environmentally and financially sustainable regional food system. This new ten-year strategy intends to increase the purchasing of locally produced food that is served in school cafeterias, help youth understand how they can effect change in the food system, provide year-round access to nourishing school meals, and increase children's understanding of how food is grown and cooked. 

Farm to Institution New England (FINE) is a six state regional network oforganizations working to increase the amount of local food sourcing that takes place on college and university campuses, within K-12 schools, and at hospitals. By increasing the demand for New England grown food by the region's schools, colleges and hospitals, they aim to support more viable food and farm enterprises; good jobs and a strong agricultural economy; robust regional supply chain infrastructure; a greater amount and variety of products grown in New England; and consistent access to affordable, healthy, regionally-grown foods for institutional facilities.

Each of the six New England states ranked in the top 10 nationally for school districts that offer farm to school activities. In New England, the most commonly mentioned farm to school activities were serving local food, promoting local foods in general, and holding taste tests of products from school gardens. Vermont had a higher percentage of school districts that had edible gardens or orchards and served food from these gardens or orchards than the rest of New England. Farmer visits and farm to school activities integrated into school curriculum hadlower responses across New England, although this is a key area of focus of the new Vermont Farm to School ten year strategy. 

Don't forget -- October is also National Farm to School Month!

Visit our Vermont page for more information about farm to institution organizations and initiatives in the Green Mountain State.

Header Photo: Locally grown vegetables are sold during a harvest festival at Randolph Elementary School in Vermont (photo by Ben DeFlorio Photography)

Featured Photo: Students and staff grow vegetables in raised beds at the White River School in Hartford, Vermont