Salvation Farms, in collaboration with Vermont Farm to Plate, hosted nearly 40 regional food system colleagues in May to strategize the first statewide conversation on moving more of Vermont’s surplus crops into institutional meal programs.
The surplus crop forum is one component of Salvation Farms’ long-term vision to build a statewide surplus crop management plan. The nonprofit estimates that 14.3 million pounds of vegetables and berries are lost on Vermont farms per year, yet few avenues exist to incorporate these surplus crops into the 19 million meals that Vermont institutions serve annually. The forum focused on the risks and opportunities of developing a new market for surplus crops that could compensate farmers while helping fill institutional demand for affordable, fresh, local produce.
Farmers from four Vermont counties attended, as well as representatives from Vermont institutional meal programs ranging from prisons to hospitals to senior care centers. Individuals representing Vermont state agencies, the Vermont Foodbank, charitable meal sites, and farm-to-school organizations also participated. Emerging themes included the benefit of developing marketing and education campaigns to ease the use of “nonstandard” crops, the need to further explore minimally processing, and the need to identify a broker to coordinate available surplus crops with diverse needs of institutions.
Out of this day, Salvation Farms, with the Farm to Plate Network, will form a stakeholder group to advise the development of a Vermont Surplus Crop Management Plan.
“If we can move lost product off the farms to a demanding market – that is no doubt a success,” stated Alyson Eastman, Deputy Secretary of Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets, who opened the forum. “These concepts are aligned with the Governor and our Agency priorities: to serve the most vulnerable, strengthen our local economy, and make Vermont more affordable.”
Salvation Farms is a Morrisville-based nonprofit with a mission to build increased resilience in Vermont’s food system through agricultural surplus management. Visit www.salvationfarms.org for more information.
Photo Caption: Attendees at Vermont’s first Surplus Crop Forum participate in a “World Café” dialogue.