The Vermont Farm to Plate Network
In 2009 the Vermont legislature tasked the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, in consultation with the Sustainable Agriculture Council and other stakeholders to increase economic development in Vermont’s food and farm sector, create jobs in the food and farm economy, and to improve access to healthy food. Accordingly, the network embarked on an 18 month process that resulted in the development of a 25 goal, 10-year strategic plan to strengthen Vermont’s food system.
This comprehensive process represents one of the best national examples of a coordinated approach to a food systems assessment. Here, we want to highlight the incredible network that resulted from the process, and how they have organized themselves to work to meet the goals laid out in the plan.
The 25 goals are exceedingly ambitious, and a major factor in meeting these goals is a well-planned network, divided into working groups with specific strategies and actions. The network is led by a steering committee, which provides overall network governance. The steering committee is coordinated by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. The other members of the steering committee include the chairs from each of its five working groups, the co-chair of the food access cross-cutting team, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, a representative of the Vermont Agriculture and Forest Products Development Board, and a representative of the Vermont Food Funders Network. Together, this committee is responsible for coordinating an annual gathering of its members, identifying gaps in strategies, developing processes for learning, and shaping the evolution of the network over time.
The initial network involved 125 organizational members and over three years has grown to exceed 350 organizational members. Members include organizations such as farms, farm enterprises, food system trade associations, co-ops, public agencies, nonprofit organizations, private funders and community groups. Members convene as working groups, cross-cutting teams, and task forces to achieve the goals of the networks.
As with many networks, particularly one of this size, a major challenge is to ensure continuous communication between the members. To address this issue, they created the Vermont Farm to Plate website which features thousands of relevant resources and acts as the communication and coordination platform for the network. Members can log in and find each other as well as access meeting notes and report updates from each of the working groups, cross-cutting teams, and steering committees.
For more information, please visit: http://www.vtfarmtoplate.com/network