University of Vermont

Cultivating Healthy Communities

Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2015

From the Director

When we think about what sustainable agriculture means to Vermont, we see the farmers who invest heart and soul in the dynamic relationship between soil, water, healthy food, fair earnings, and a community of eaters. We see the simple and complex practices that are restoring and protecting precious farmland and keeping excess nutrients from our state's waterways. We see the extraordinary work in which community leaders engage to assure that all people have access to healthy food, even those who might traditionally be thought of as vulnerable. We look to our colleagues who also work with farmers, and devote themselves to new opportunities and challenges while supporting strong traditions and values.

Here we've highlighted just a few areas of research and outreach in the 2014-2015 program year. Every one of them - Pasture, Farming & Climate Change, Produce Safety, New American Farmer Project, and Food Access Research - was made possible because of a whole network of donors, colleagues, partners, community leaders, farmers, and supporters who are interested in approaches to food and agriculture that are good for farmers, good for communities, and good to our precious soil and water resources. You can see our depiction of this network, our "ecosystem," a little further down this page.

If you'd like to download a .pdf version of this report, you can do so here .

Please let us know what you think, how we can be of help, and what you'd like to know more about.

- Linda Berlin, Ph.D.
Director, UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Pasture Program

Our Vision

Well-managed intensive grazing is the solar-powered intersection of profitable farming, robust ecosystems, and really good food. It represents everything that agriculture should be.

How this work matters:

Well-managed pasture keeps water clean by continually building organic matter in the soil. What does that mean? It means land that's able to absorb and hold onto water and nutrients instead of having them run off into nearby rivers, streams, and lakes. According to research1, rich soil with 8% organic matter can absorb 85% of even an extreme weather event like a 5.5-inch rainfall.

1According to Missouri NRCS Soil Health Conservationist Doug Peterson: the capacity of well-managed pasture to absorb water and nutrients increases dramatically with increased soil organic matter. See his very informative slideshow for Missouri State Extension here, with this and much more information.

What a partnering farmer says about this work:

"Keeping Vermont's water clean is hugely important to us. Clean water starts with healthy soil. We are proud to raise grass-fed cattle while growing healthy soils with high organic matter. This is eco-regenerative agriculture. - South Hero Farmer Eric Noel

Want more information about grass farming and the links between financial sustainability, soil fertility and water quality?

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Farming & Climate Change

Our Vision:

Farms and farmers that are not troubled by August drought or May floods, who lose no soil during July thunderstorms, and who help heat and power their neighbors during February snows.

What a farmer says about this work:

"I can't imagine surviving climate change in a bubble. Our greatest resource for planning and surviving is communicating with seed companies, growers, Extension services, knowing what's happening in southern Vermont, in Massachusetts. What's a problem for them this year will be a problem for us next year." -- Amanda Andrews, Tamarack Hollow Farm, as quoted in an interview for the Farming & Climate Change Adaptation blog

How this work matters:

A recent research project on climate change resilience in Vermont found that 56% of farmers in the Missisquoi and Lamoille River watersheds make daily decisions in response to weather events.2 As extreme weather events increase in a changing climate, the impact of those decisions will become more significant for Vermont farmers, consumers, and communities.

2Here we cite Rachel Schattman, Ph.D.'s Climate Change Resilience on Vermont Farms: A Research Report for Service Providers. A key finding of her report is that Vermont farmers rely on best management practices to reduce risk in their farm businesses. Some of these practices are useful in limiting farm-scale risks producers may face because of climate change.

Want more information about farming and climate change in Vermont?

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New Farms for New Americans

Our Vision

Vermont's resettled refugee and immigrant farmers will have access to the resources they need to become proud members of Vermont's food system, and continue rich farming legacies that are common threads between their new cultural home and that of their homeland.

2015 Impact

In the 2015 growing season, New American farmers and gardeners working with the Center and our partners produced approximately 7.5 tons of produce to feed their families and their neighbors, and to sell to local markets and restaurants.3

3Current funding allows us to partner with AALV to offer marketing and production assistance directly to ten farmers through enterprise training, and general food production and gardening education to 50 people through the gardener and food security components. The sum of 7.5 tons was derived from program records, based on an assumption of an 8-week harvest window with 10 farmers in business produced on average 1500 pounds per week X 8 weeks = 12,000 pounds = 6 tons plus 40 gardeners producing 10 pounds per week = 400 pounds x 8 = 3200 pounds = ~1.5 tons.

What a Farmer Says

"I explain how and when to plant and how to prepare the soil. I teach my whole family how to grow the vegetables and I explain to them which are good in traditional ways and which are good for health." - New American Farmer Indra Khadka, as quoted in the "Global Food, Local Food Guide," co-published by the Center for Sustainable Agriculture and by the Association for Africans Living in Vermont in 2015

More about the Center's New American Farmer Project:

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Produce Safety

Our vision

All Vermont's commercial fruit and vegetable growers have written and implemented produce safety plans that help keep local food in local markets, improve farm efficiency, and ensure produce quality and safety by using practices that support ecological, social, and economic sustainability.

What a colleague says about this work:

"The food safety workshop provided through Salvation Farms and UVM Extension was a valuable resource in terms of providing our Gleaning Program with the most relevant information necessary to safely handle food from harvest, to storage, to distribution." -- Jessica Sanford, Gleaning Program Manager at the Intervale Center

2015 Impact

Members of the Vermont Gleaning Collective gleaned 203,074 pounds of fresh produce4 that would otherwise likely have gone to waste and instead distributed it to local people and families after participating in a produce safety training with the Center for Sustainable Agriculture's Ginger Nickerson.

4Theresa Snow of Salvation Farms helped estimate that the Vermont Gleaning Collective (a network of professionally organized community-based gleaning programs) was able to redirect over 200,000 pounds. of Vermont farm surplus after participating in a produce safety training with Produce Safety Coordinator Ginger Nickerson. For more information on Salvation Farms and gleaning in Vermont, visit their website.

Seeking more resources about on-farm produce safety for Vermont's produce growers?

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Food Access Research

Our Vision

Barriers will be eliminated so that all who live in Vermont can gain access to healthy, locally or regionally produced food.

About Understanding Food Access Across Different Cultures

"We think of our existing measures of food security as objective, but they're really not when we look across different cultures. What does a "balanced meal" mean to someone who grew up in a completely different culture? How can we provide the services that people can access if we don't know how they're defining their own needs?"5 - Center Director Linda Berlin, Ph.D.

Spotlight on 2015 Food Access Research

In the 2015 program year, we documented the experiences of nearly 30 people about how resettled refugees accessed food in Vermont.

5The interviews referenced here are part of a broader research project to help determine what food security means for New Americans, with an eye towards adjusting policy and programs to make sure that they're accessible and effective in meeting needs.

Interested in the Center's Food Access Work?

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Fiscal Year 2015 Income & Expenses

About the Center's Funding

  • Extension Funding is a combination of federal and state dollars that UVM receives as a land-grant university.
  • Grants are from government sources and private foundations. This section of the chart is proportionately larger than usual because all of the income from two multi-year grants are accounted for in FY15.
  • Endowment income is the interest that is earned from generous donations made to the Center by donors who wanted to ensure that important work can continue in perpetuity. (If you are interested in supporting the Center's future in this way, please contact Kurt Reichelt via email or phone at 802-656-1396.
  • Gifts are donations to the Center's annual fundraising appeals, or those made spontaneously.

Understanding the Center's Expenses

  • Pasture represents salaries and program costs for the Center's largest program, with three staffers who engage in research, outreach, collaboration and technical assistance with farmers around the state.
  • Administrative & Communications monies support leadership, collaboration, development, grants management, financial oversight, support for program staff, outreach and customer service, and allow us to produce the Center's newsletters, calendars and annual report.
  • Food Safety allowed the Produce Safety Coordinator to help farmers develop and follow plans for safe handling of their on-farm produce, including important work around new regulations.
  • New Farmer expenses supported work in the areas of Land Access, Youth Ag. IDA, and New American Farmers, and projects including the Global Food, Local Food Guide.
  • Food Access funding made it possible to research Vermont's market and capacity for locally grown dried beans, and research how people are accessing healthy food.
  • Climate Change expenses represent the research, outreach, publications, collaborations, and technical assistance provided through the Farming & Climate Change program.
  • Miscellaneous Projects included our work supporting the Sustainable Agriculture Council, and the wrap-up of work on previous grant projects.

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The 2015 Ecosystem of the Center

(click image to enlarge)

The Center's 2015 "Ecosystem"