Vermont Fresh Network 2018 Annual Meeting & Luncheon
Thank you to the presenters and everyone who joined us for the 2018 Vermont Fresh Network Annual Meeting on January 22nd in Norwich! We especially thank King Arthur Flour for hosting and feeding us well (on a related note: here's a recipe for those Almond Cookies). We also thank our Affiliate Partner sponsors, Dinse, Farrell Distributing, Foley Services, Hotel Vermont, Reinhart Foodservice / Black River Produce.
Below you will find notes and links to information from the day.
The short version of VFN Business:
We did well in 2017 - completing our programmatic goals even with a change in leadership midway through the year. Key activities are listed in our annual report (below).
We ended 2017 with a balanced budget, and begin 2018 with over 6 months operating funds in reserves. We plan to draw on a modest portion of these to get through the last parts of the transition, in particular training time and overlap for onboarding new staff.
Staffing transitions are a big deal right now - Meghan Sheridan left as Executive Director, Helen Labun replaced her in June. Grace Meyer is still Communications & Membership Manager, but she’s leaving to start a distillery. We’ve been using short term and part-time contracts to fill in staffing gaps, which can’t continue. Our goal is to get up to 2.75 FTE staff in 2018, and hit our “fully staffed” level of 3 FTE in 2019.
Two big goals in 2018 are to grow our membership (including concerted efforts to represent all areas of the state) and to have a successful relaunch of DigInVT.
Items of note:
Membership renewal has begun, with slightly revised applications designed to facilitate better data management. They can be found online at this link.
New members can also find applications at the same link.
At the beginning of the year, a membership vote approved updates to two agricultural membership criteria, and the updated language is reflected on the applications.
At this meeting we approved the new slate of Board members and officers, an updated listing is now found online here.
Here is a link to the Annual Report.
First Session: Marketing Beyond Vermont
Thank you to our panelists
- Susan Miller (Baking School Director, King Arthur Flour)
- Lisa Chase (Farm-to-Plate Agritourism Task Force & UVM Extension)
- Hilary DelRoss (VT Dept. of Tourism & Marketing)
- Mara Welton (Slow Food Vermont)
We talked about different tools available to assist food businesses in reaching audiences beyond Vermont (including but not limited to agritourism & culinary tourism locations). Below are links to resources mentioned in the talk:
- UVM Agritourism Resources: Many fact sheets and sample policies uvm.edu/vtagritourism
- Vermont Tourism Research Center For links to report and research on tourism, including agritourism uvm.edu/tourismresearch/
- Vermont Partners Resources from the state at VermontPartners.com - there is also a handout with an overview of all the ways the Agency of Commerce can help with your out of state marketing, linked here.
- Slow Food Websites:
- The next meeting of the Vermont Farm to Plate Agritourism Task Force is on Feb 9th at the Taste Place in the Mad River Valley
- Also note that the Vermont Tourism Summit has many food-themed workshop offerings this year, it’s taking place in Manchester on April 11th - 12th
Susan Miller provided an introduction to the Baking School at King Arthur Flour and their work building an audience. She noted that it’s often easier for them to attract out of state visitors, while folks in state don’t find time to participate. If you would like to change that terrible state of affairs, check out the class schedule (which includes both amateur and professional level classes) on kingarthurflour.com
Thank you to our panelists:
- Sarah Buxton (Director of Workforce Policy & Performance at the VT Dept. of Labor)
- Lynn Coale (Executive Director of ACORN, formerly Director of the Hannaford Career Center)
- Tristan Toleno (State Representative for Brattleboro)
- Jolinda LaClair (Director of Drug Prevention Policy)
- Moderator: Liz Schlegel (Alchemist Foundation)
We hit on a lot of different topics in our discussion of workforce development issues. Our unemployment rate is 2.8% which is really really low. Line cooks are the third most needed job (behind cashiers and retail clerks). Our working-age population is, and has been, shrinking. Federal policies significantly impact our ability to bring workers to the state and keep them here. This is not new news, it’s still bad news. Folks are trying to find better ways to go about workforce development - as noted in the recent report on this topic, redesigning Vermont's approach will take several years.
Below are links to resources currently out there. VFN will do our best to keep you up to date and supplied with current information moving forward.
- Vermont Department of Labor Workforce Development Division
- Regional Career Resource Centers these locations also offer veterans' career services.
- Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (explained) and the Vermont specific WIOA details (look under "related links")
- Registered Apprenticeship Programs - as noted in the discussion there are not sponsors in food systems work, but many job types in food are approved (so there could be sponsors)
- Governor's Opioid Coordination Council (includes report that Jolinda shared)
- Also, the American Farm Bureau has a farm-focused website that combines multiple resources: Farm Town Strong
- Vermont Department of Education Flexible Pathways Program
- Also of note, the Vermont Technical College employer partner program
- As mentioned in discussion, it’s never too early to engage kids in thinking about working in food when they grow up. There are many organizations working on that connection.
- Individual nonprofit programs that were referenced (certainly not every program in existence):
- Private company that was mentioned - which offers a variety of job candidate matching options: