Strengthening Local Food Systems

Strengthening Local Food SystemOur country’s food system is undergoing a remarkable transformation. These changes started at the local level, with individuals and communities considering both the origin of their food and the path it takes from farm to table. Small organic farms, socially responsible markets and businesses, creative chefs and restaurants, and even individual home gardeners are intermingling through commerce and common purpose. Together, we are inventing a healthier and more resilient food system that is also rippling out into a myriad of positive social, environmental and economic change, and leading the way to a more resilient future.

Farm at South Village South Village CSA

Growing a suburban community farm and food hub South Village is Vermont's first "Traditional Neighborhood Development," one of more than 300 across the country. Only 10 minutes from downtown Burlington, the development on this abandoned dairy farm offers an alternative to the cookie-cutter neighborhoods and McMansions that make up suburbia everywhere. Homes are clustered into neighborhoods with sidewalks and narrow streets, and more than 70% of the land has been conserved for wildlife habitat and an organic farm, plus all stormwater is being retained on site, reducing pollution in Lake Champlain.. The Farm at South Village is the literal and philosophical center of the community. Organic vegetables, grown in the fields and in greenhouses, support a thriving CSA and the surplus is sold to local markets. South Village residents have access to community garden plots and shared amenities such as laying hens, berry patches and fruit trees, and kitchen waste composting. A small non-profit organization has established teaching gardens for South Burlington school children. Now, the Farm at South Village is also working to establish as a "food hub" that will give area residents easy access to a wide range of fresh, locally grown food from multiple area farms. Will helped plan and initiate South Village and is developing the Farm at South Village.

Mi TierraMi Tierra at Tierra Pacifica

A business incubator and local economy catalyst Located within the Tierra Pacifica ecological development in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica, this six-year-old, 10-acre organic farm produces fruits and vegetables that are sold throughout the year under the Mi Tierra brand, to local customers and through area restaurants, farmers' markets, and supermarkets. The farm employs coconut coir and biochar to build soils and reuse local wastes, drip irrigation, protected crops techniques and Mayan raised “chinampas” sunken beds that optimize harvest in the monsoon and dry seasons while capturing and retaining water and soil. The farm tests hundreds of seed varieties from around the world and also serves as a demonstration and testing center where local landowners can learn how to optimize their farmland and increase their income. The Mi Tierra nursery, started in 2009, has allowed the farm to expand its diversity of crops and offer area gardeners a selection of ornamental, edible and restoration plants. Mi Tierra, in collaboration with the local non-profit, Restoring Our Watershed, has also established a no-interest micro-lending program for local farmers. Farmers in the program can market their products under the Mi Tierra brand. Participating farmers now produce honey, eggs, vegetables and fruit, plus poultry, goat cheese and fresh-water shrimp are coming soon. Can 10% of local food come from local farms given that now it is less than 1%? Will is a developer of Tierra Pacifica and founder of Mi Tierra and Restoring Our Watershed.

Intervale CenterIntervale Center

Strengthening sustainable community food systems The innovative programs and initiatives of Vermont's Intervale Center have received national recognition and influenced small urban farms throughout the country. The Center manages 350 acres of farmland and wildlife habitat in the heart of Burlington. One of the first membership farms in New England, Intervale Community Farm now provides organic produce for 500 member households in the Burlington area. The Intervale Farm Incubator Program has assisted dozens of Intervale farmers by providing subsidized land and equipment rentals, business planning support and mentorship. The Intervale Food Hub, now in its third successful year, is aggregating, marketing and distributing produce from more than 20 area farms. Will founded the Intervale Center in 1987, chaired it for 15 years and led the development of the Intervale Community Farm, Intervale Compost Program and the Farm Incubator Program.

Gardener's SupplyGardener’s Supply Company

America’s #1 resource for successful environmental gardening Home gardeners look to Gardener's Supply as a trusted resource for organic pest controls, seed starting equipment, plant supports, composters and other supplies that make it easier to garden more successfully – and in harmony with nature. Gardener's Supply has been promoting home food gardening for nearly three decades. The catalog and online retailer offers free garden planning advice through its interactive Kitchen Garden Planner and organic pest control solutions through its Pest and Disease Detective. The company also honors individuals who are improving the world through gardening activism with its annual Garden Crusader Awards program. Will founded Gardener's Supply in 1983 and serves as the company’s Chairman.

Vermont Farm to PlateVermont Farm to Plate

The Farm to Plate (F2P) Initiative, approved at the end of the 2009 Vermont legislative session, directed the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, in consultation with the Sustainable Agriculture Council and other stakeholders, to develop a 10-year strategic plan to strengthen Vermont’s food system. The Farm to Plate Strategic Plan, adopted in early 2011, provides statistics and detailed analyses of Vermont’s food system. It contains 33 goals and 60 high priority strategies that will lead to job creation, greater economic output, and aims to double the access for Vermont and regional consumers to healthy, fresh food over the next 10 years. Will co-chaired the task force set up by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility that lead to the creation of F2P.

New Economics InstituteNew Economics Institute

Advancing a new economics that supports human well-being and the Earth’s natural systems While policies for a new economics "as if people and the environment matter" are about macro system change, in recent decades shifts away from industrial food systems to building local food systems have led economic change in many communities. The New Economics Institute (NEI) collaborates with policy-makers, businesses, reformers, organizations, intellectuals and innovators worldwide to challenge old economic assumptions and outdated economic policies, and develop the vision and the tools to help us transition to a "low-resource, high-well-being" economic future. The New Economics Institute (NEI) unites London's New Economics Foundation with the E. F. Schumacher Society (EFSS) in the U.S. Will is co-chair of the New Economics Institute.

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