Growth in Vermont's local food systems is outpacing that of the state's overall economy by a rate of three to one and creating thousands of new jobs, according to new numbers identified by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.
Over the past five years, local food systems have grown at a rate of 3 percent, while Vermont's economy as a whole has only grown at a rate of 1 percent.
Chuck Ross, the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, shared these numbers yesterday at the fourth annual Farm to Plate Network Gathering at the Killington Grant Resort & Conference Center, and touted the major and positive role that local food plays in Vermont's economy.
Ross also noted that the total economic output from Vermont's food system over the last five years has amounted to $1.7 billion in new economic activity.
"This is a little state of 666,000 people, [and] $1.7 billion of new economic activity is big," Ross said.
Governor Peter Shumlin, who also spoke at the gathering, proudly shared more statistics: "That's meant 3,400 jobs since 2009. More importantly, we've got 625 businesses [in the food system], some of whom are here today, who were not here before."
Ross called the figures "enormous and significant," and added, "because of the multiplier effect of the economic sectors in which we're engaged, we are seeing that the new indirect and induced jobs really measures about 9,000 [jobs]."
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, which houses the Vermont Farm to Plate Network, identified the numbers using the Regional Economic Model, Inc. (REMI), with help from the economic and public policy consulting firm Kavet, Rockler & Associates, which also works with the Vermont Legislature.
The Farm to Plate gathering convened about 300 growers, processors, advocates, and business owners to discuss the major successes in Vermont's local food systems, as well as the challenges still facing the state.
And while the first of two days kicked off on a celebratory, congratulatory note, the primary focus of the gathering is to consider issues of food equity and access in the state.