Giving thanks: energy efficiency and farm to plate in Vermont
by JJ Vandette, Strategic Planning Manager
In Vermont, we take a lot of pride in the things that make us different from other states – and around the holidays that means one topic that is near and dear to my heart: local food.
Almost anyone who has lived in Vermont over the last decade or so can attest to an ongoing transformation in our food system. All over the state, many consumers are taking greater interest in where their food is coming from, what it really costs to produce it, and how much energy it takes to bring food from the farm to the table. Here are a few stats that really sum it up for me:
- Vermont has more farmers’ markets, CSAs, farm stands, and cheese makers per capita than any other state.
- Vermont has more than 700 independent grocery stores – that’s 56 times the national average per capita! This is a major contrast with other states, since large chain stores comprising 95% of the national market share.
- Vermont produced 40% of the maple syrup in the United State in 2013, more than New York and Maine combined.
This transformation has not happened over night; It has come about as a result of deep collaboration, and a lot of hard work, via the Vermont Farm to Plate Network, to understand the complexity and many points of interdependence in Vermont’s food system.
The role of energy costs in Vermont’s food system
As it turns out, a big part of the picture is influenced by energy. In fact, even as Vermont’s food system has become more focused on local production, the amount of money Vermont farmers have spent on fossil fuel increased dramatically – it was up 83% between 1997 and 2007.
That’s why energy efficiency is an integral part of efforts to support and grow local farm and small business enterprises. Lower energy costs improve the bottom line for farmers – allowing them focus on improving quality and productivity so they can get their food to you more easily, and at a competitive price. When food producers, local grocery stores, and restaurants are able to reduce their energy bills, they can pass those savings to customers and invest in growing their business. With all these pieces working together, everyone is a winner.
What is your perspective on Vermont’s growing local food economy – and how energy fits into the picture? Please share your comments and questions below.