Monday, April 22, 2013

Bursting My Vermont Bubble

As my time at the University of Vermont quickly comes to a close, I try to appreciate all the unique factors that Vermont has to offer.  One important part of my life here in Vermont is the Locavore mentality that Vermont supports.  I came upon an article on NPR about little Vermont, and surprise surprise, it was about their ranking as top in the nation on the Locavore Index.  This article just pointed out further that Vermont makes it much easier to support this movement, though I want to do my best to bring this mentality with me wherever I end up.

I investigated this Locavore Index a little further, and found a radio segment on the Vermont Public Radio interviewing the head marketer of Strolling of the Heifers, the non-profit that created and calculated this index.  It also features listeners to chime in with thoughts and questions about the topic, which created an interesting mix of opinions.  Considering Strolling of the Heifers is a Vermont-based company there are many things to examine before accepting this ranking.  Coming from the Boston area originally, the ranking did not surprise me very much.  The effort for local is quite loud and clear in my opinion, though others had great points to bring to the table.

One Vermont farmer from Montpelier brought to attention the fact that Vermont still only supplies less than 10% of the state through local food systems.  Even at the top of the Locavore Index, what can be done to make it mean more?  The interviewee acknowledges this as an issue, but explains that it is a slow moving process and can be built through the institutions that support it.  I found this to be a very interesting point, especially as I move out of the state of Vermont, I have been able to see best practice examples of institutions like the Fletcher Allen Hospital, Farm to School, Vermont FEED, Vermont Works for Women- Fresh Food, and gazillions more that are supporting this practice.

Another caller brings in the question of why local food is more expensive, especially if the transportation and processing costs are much lower by keeping it local.  This was a thought that has lingered my mind a few times.  The answer was formed quite eloquently, and nice to hear. The term local has been used as a value-added term for the farmer allowing the farmer to request a fairer, and therefor higher price.  Another thing they mention is the scale to which farms are producing.  According to the economic model the less a farmer produces, the higher a price they must place on the product.

I really enjoyed this discussion on VPR, and though it was based in Vermont, it had diverse opinions that allowed me to think for myself about how to move forward.  It doesn't surprise me that Vermont is on the top of this movement.  With such passionate citizens conversing about this issue, and recognizing its flaws and how to fix them shows the solidarity within the state.  I look forward to seeing the index change in the coming years.  I hope to see Vermont continue to grow (no pun intended), while watching other states fight to top the charts!

NP 4/23

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