Sowing Local Seeds

By John Tashiro, General Manager

Happy March! With temperatures forecasted to rise and daylight savings time just around the corner, I am looking forward to the Spring Equinox later this month!

Spring is always an exciting time of year at the Co-op. We anticipate the gradual increase in the availability of local produce and look forward to exploring new fruits and vegetables. I can’t wait to consider the many possibilities of growing vegetables, herbs and flowers in my family’s garden – soon we’ll have a wide variety of seeds on offer at the Co-op. From preparing the soil, planting the seeds and witnessing the first buds peek out of the ground to nurturing, watering and harvesting them, the magical experience of growing always makes me even more grateful for the incredibly hard work of our farmers.

As food co-ops, we are constantly looking at ways to partner with farmers and see how we can continue to strengthen our local food system. You might have heard some stories of success recently from the Farm to Plate 2018 Annual Report. State legislation created Farm to Plate, and with it a statewide food system plan, spanning 2010 to 2020. The 2020 target for local food consumption was set at 10% and that target was surpassed in 2017 when 12.9% ($289 million) of total food and beverage purchases in Vermont were spent on local products. This represents unbelievable growth from the starting point of 5% in 2010 ($114 million)!

Vermont’s local food system has some champions in its 15 food co-ops, including Hanover Co-op’s White River Junction store. These co-ops made up almost 15% ($42.5 million) of the $289 million in total local sales. Equally impressive, the percentage of Vermont households that faced food insecurity dropped from 13.8% in 2010 to 9.8% in 2017. The report defines food insecure households as those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Vermont food co-ops have collectively played a key role around making fresh, healthy and local food more accessible for people with limited incomes. City Market is a part of this success with our Food for All program and our Co-op Basics everyday low price program.

Kari Bradley, a good friend and General Manager of Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier, recently had the opportunity to testify before the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry regarding food co-ops’ important role in furthering local food system development. Local is baked into our businesses, so more food co-ops means more local vendors will access to a growing number of Vermont consumers year-round.

Continuing on the theme of sowing local seeds, City Market will host our 5th Annual Co-op Seedling Grant celebration on Monday, March 11 in our South End Community Room. We created this grant program as a way to donate Member’s uncashed Patronage Refund checks to strengthen the local food system. The annual applications from Vermont non-profits are reviewed by a Member Grants Committee and support a vast array of innovative projects. This year, we will be funding 7 grant requests totaling over $30,000 and we’ll celebrate with our grantee organizations, our Board, our Member Grants Committee, and Burlington’s Mayor Weinberger and Secretary Tebbetts from Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. Later on that day, I’ll present our annual Co-op overview to Burlington’s City Council. This a great opportunity to keep the City updated about our work, general operations and positive impacts on the community. We have much to share, celebrate and be proud of as a co-op and I am certainly looking forward to it!

As always, thank you for your support. We will continue to listen to your feedback and work every day to serve you, our Members and the broader community. Look forward to seeing you (and some warmer weather) at the Co-op soon!