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By Chris Howell, co-leader of Slow Food Vermont

If there’s one takeaway from the Vermont Farm To Plate annual gathering, it’s that our regional food system is in very good hands.

{{ image(2591, {“class”: “flor round”, “width”:”250″, “height”:”193″, “method”: “img”}) }}Vermont’s Farm to Plate Network encompasses agricultural production and processing businesses, government entities, educational institutions, distributors, retailers, funding bodies, and dozens of non-profits from food justice to technical assistance providers.

Together, the 300+ members of the Farm to Plate Network are working to implement the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan, a 10-year initiative to strengthen Vermont’s food system and double local food production and consumption by 2020.

In stark contrast with the divisive political environment in Washington, Vermont’s state legislature continues to support a broad statewide initiative to shape our regional food system. It gives me tremendous hope for the future (and pride in my home state) that not only are so many organizations in Vermont working together, but our state policymakers are also involved and supportive of our efforts.

For such a broad-based initiative, the Vermont Farm to Plate Network is remarkably well organized and effective. Six working groups, six crosscutting teams, a steering committee, and 17 task forces meet on a regular basis. The Network has an impressive array of organizations at the table ready to work collaboratively, a clear plan with measurable goals, and the support of the Vermont legislature. Not least of all, there’s a capable backbone organization to steer the ship — Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.

I’d encourage policymakers — and anyone who eats food — to look over Vermont’s Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. Pay special attention to the 25 goals; a few standouts:

  • Consumption of Vermont-produced food by Vermonters and regional consumers will measurably increase.
  • Vermonters will exhibit fewer food-related health problems.
  • All Vermonters will have access to fresh, nutritionally balanced food they can afford.

It is this kind of forward-thinking regional collaboration that will change our food system.