Annual Meeting NoteFebruary 3, 2016
On Monday, February 1st the Vermont Fresh Network held its annual meeting of partner members. A crowd of 80 filled the lakeside meeting room at the ECHO Center in Burlington. The meeting began with a lightning-round of experts on the issues of food waste, Act 148 - compost rules and regulations, the health of Lake Champlain, required agricultural practices, and labor. All of these topics are relevant to us as food-focused professionals; what initially impacts one part of the food system eventually has implications for the whole system.
Food waste has been in the spotlight nationally; opening our eyes to the fact that about 30% of the food we grow is never eaten. At the meeting, Theresa Snow from Salvation Farms and Danika Frisbie from the Agency of Natural Resources helped us understand the opportunities and rules of food donation and the upcoming regulations comprising Vermont’s Act 148.
Phelan Fretz of ECHO Center and John Roberts from the VT Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets covered the vast topic of Lake Champlain’s water quality. Whether you are on the shores or far up in the Green Mountains farmers are, and will continue to be, held accountable by the government authorities and the population at large for their impact on soil and water quality. In 2016, many of our members may find greater understanding and affirmation in the marketplace for their growing practices and others may find the inspiration and opportunity to improve their stewardship. VFN will continue to facilitate discussion and educational opportunities for VFN members and the public to build our collective understanding and appreciation of the agricultural practices that positively impact our environment.
Labor; be it on the farm, in the plant, on the road or in the kitchen, continues to be a major issue for many of our members. Members may be experiencing problems finding skilled employees, with employee retention rate, or understanding compensation legislation. Dirk Anderson, attorney at the Vermont Department of Labor, was scheduled to speak on a variety of labor issues, but illness interfered and Danielle Kane and Ann Carnell stepped in to discuss the resources the Department of Labor offers both employees and employers.
VFN is a network of food producers, farmers, distributors, markets and culinary professionals. Collectively we all experience the difficulties of building a resilient local food system. Only by being responsible to one another, and understanding everyone’s value, do we progress towards creating the healthy food system and environment we want to leave the next generation. In 2016, VFN will continue to share your stories of innovation to the public. We will continue to help them find you above all others because of who you are and how/why you do what you do!
Best to you all,
Meghan J. Sheradin