VERMONT TECH FARM—CASE STUDY

In collaboration with food service provider, Sodexo, and food distributor, Black River Produce, Vermont Technical College’s Market Garden program produces and distributes locally grown food for three VT colleges and provides invaluable vocational training for its own students.

Institutional Profile

  • Name: Vermont Technical College
  • Foodservice Type: Sodexo
  • Location: campuses in Randolph Center, Williston and other locations across Vermont, Location of Farmland: Randolph Center, VT,
  • Acreage of Farmland: 2.25 acres
  • Total Food Produced in 2013: 3,500 pounds (with just 1 acre in production)
  • Total Sales in 2013: $6,150 (with just 1 acre in production) Other Colleges Purchasing From Market Garden: Colby Sawyer College & Norwich University

Our Story
The VTC Market Garden is part of the college’s department of Continuing Education and Workforce Development. The mission is to provide hands-on learning experiences that complements Vermont Tech programs and curriculum. The garden has been in production for four years, but has been intensively managed for the last two years. There is also a CSA with Vermont Tech’s faculty and staff.

How much land is in production?
The Market Garden currently has two acres in vegetable production and a ¼ acre in pick-your-own blueberry production. Are the production methods organic? The garden is not certified organic, but considers organic practices to be the backbone of the program.

Who purchases the food from the Market Garden?
They grow for the VTC cafeteria and sell to Colby Sawyer College and Norwich University using Black River Produce, as their Sodexo-approved distributor.

How do they decide what to grow?
Working with Sodexo to plant what they will use. (Lettuce successions and root crops, principally.)

What are the challenges?
Increasing production while maintaining the educational component. Not being certified organic yet.

Structure
We have a college campus market garden where we grow vegetables and fruit for the Vermont Tech dining hall along with other Vermont colleges. We use student labor and experiential learning to manage the crop production. We have built a relationship with Sodexo and Black River Produce for efficient ordering, invoicing and delivery.
Lessons Learned
Running a program like this takes a lot of management, planning, communication and collaboration. Building a sustainable farm to institution model with partner collaboration takes years but is time well spent for the college and surrounding community. Every year you will learn something new and adjust.

Resources
http://www.wcax.com/story/22972036/vt-summer-camp-focuses-on-farming
http://www.wptz.com/news/vermont-new-york/burlington/handson-week-seeks-to-inspire-next-generation-of-farmers/21251314
http://www.ourherald.com/news/2013-08-01/Front_Page/Governors_Institute_Comes_to_VTC.html

Food Connects
Food Connects is a non-profit organization based in Brattleboro, VT. Its mission is to cultivate healthy farm and food connections in classrooms, cafeterias and communities. Its Farm to Institution program aims to increase direct sales of local foods by opening up new markets and to support the development of local food aggregation and distribution systems. Learn more >

Sodexo
Sodexo is a leading food and facilities management company in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. From preschool through post-grad, in public schools and independent schools, and on campuses of every kind, Sodexo creates clean, safe living and learning environments that inspire and drive success. Learn more >

Black River Produce
Black River Produce is a food distributor with more than 2,000 wholesale customers, including stores, schools, restaurants, clubs, camps, ski areas, hospitals, nursing homes and farm stands throughout Vermont, most of New Hampshire, and parts of New York and Massachusetts. Learn more >

Contacts
Farm to College Project Manager: Riley Neugebauer, riley@farmtoinstitution.org
Farm to College Project Vermont Lead: Richard Berkfield, richard@foodconnects.org
Case Study Contacts: Molly Willard, mwillard2@vtc.vsc.edu, and Rachel Fussell, rfussell@vtc.vsc.edu