November 3, 2017
Localvore—10 Years Later
Ten years ago when the Localvore movement was just starting to take hold throughout Vermont and in the Mad River Valley, eating an all local meal was a challenge as many who took the annual Localvore Challenge learned. For a week, in mid-September, the peak harvest time for Vermont farmers, families would pledge to eat only local foods. On the surface, it seems like the bar was pretty low with the plethora of fruits and vegetables available at our farmers' markets at that time of the year. In fact, many found it impossible to make it through the week without a handful of "wild card" items that came from outside of the 100 mile radius of the Mad River Valley.
What are some of the things that couldn't be on our plates during that Challenge week? Bread, oils, rice, pasta, fish and salt were sorely missed by many people. And, we couldn't even drown our sorrows at the end of the day because the wine and hard cider industries in Vermont were just in their infancy. Things one takes for granted such as oatmeal, dried beans and popped corn, we discovered, weren't grown in Vermont through they once were. We learned that most of the fluid milk produced in Vermont, was shipped to Massachusetts, commingled with other milk from the region, repackaged and shipped back to Vermont and that was true if the milk was conventional or organic.
Those Eat Local Challenges achieved their objective to raise awareness about where our food is coming from and to create market demand for more local food. Many farmers recognized that there were new opportunities to grow their businesses by experimenting with reviving crops that had once thrived in the state such as wheat for flour and sunflowers for oil. Rice paddies, typically associated with warmer climates, were being cultivated. Other, non-farming operations were started to add value to locally grown food for example, authentic corn tortillas and bean burgers.
Suddenly, the fledgling grassroots Localvore movement was having an overall impact on the Vermont economy and it was clear that there was potential for a lot more growth and jobs with support to help the local food system scale up.
In 2009, Farm to Plate Investment Program legislation was signed into law and tasked the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund with the creation of a ten year Farm to Plate Strategic Plan to:
- increase economic development in Vermont’s farm and food sector;
- create jobs in the farm and food economy;
- improve access to healthy local food for all Vermonters.
Fast Forward to Today
There may not be a better place in the state to see the results of the Localvore Movement and Vermont Farm to Plate than the Mad River Taste Place. Most of the products at the Taste Place are Vermont-made, often with Vermont-grown ingredients.