Mission, Vision & Social Impact
The Vermont Fresh Network (VFN) was founded in 1996 with the vision of building a flourishing Vermont food and farm economy. We connect agricultural and culinary professionals, with consumers who appreciate their food and their commitment to local purchasing. Our work supports a sustainable working landscape, brings vital economic opportunity to Vermont’s rural communities, and builds Vermont’s national reputation for exceptional food.
Our members support a more transparent food system. The Vermont Fresh Network verifies each member’s commitment to local purchasing as measured by their number of farm / restaurant partners, volume of local foods purchased, diversity of local products on the menu, and participation in community activities that support a stronger local food system. Our logo means members have met our published standards. We believe that ‘local food’ is a commitment, not simply another marketing term. We also educate consumers about the food system through special events, member profiles, farm visits, presentations, and other activities.
Our members represent a large market for Vermont farmers. In Vermont, approximately 24% of local food spending is direct to consumer sales, leaving the majority of spending through other channels. Another 50% is at grocery stores and co-ops - spent both on whole ingredients and prepared foods, one of the fastest growing grocery categories. Food prepared away from home is a significant share of the food market today and is becoming larger. In 2015 about $143 million in local food sales moved through the types of establishments represented by VFN -- in that year our members reported $45 million in local food purchases. (State statistics from Farm to Plate)
Our members work collaboratively to build better markets for Vermont food products. Just as important as the market we offer today, our members are also building a better future for Vermont products. They may try out a new ingredient that could become a menu staple, build diners’ appreciation for Vermont food products that they then purchase for their own kitchens, or make agreements to grow hard-to-find ingredients in the next season. Every year, VFN undertakes grant-funded projects to address barriers around particular Vermont foods entering a restaurant market. In 2017 and 2018, for example, we received funding to develop markets for Vermont wine, highlight Lake Champlain fish, and continue to promote agricultural and culinary tourism.
Our positive impact is growing. Over twenty-one years, VFN has learned a lot about local food and we are constantly experimenting with new projects as the local food system evolves. In 2017, after three years of pilot programs, we partnered with Lake Champlain International to host a series of fishing trips that engaged farmers and chefs in conversation about water quality and the future of the lake as a source of local food. Over this same summer we started a small pilot project engaging chefs in advising volunteer-led community and senior meal sites, which can grow to become its own full-scale project. At the end of 2017, we are completing major upgrades to DigInVT. This collaborative marketing tool is unique in the nation for the extent of the information-sharing across organizations that makes it a success - we intend for it to eventually help all local food-focused Vermont nonprofits. VFN continues to learn and innovate as an organization with a strong entrepreneurial spirit.