Vermont took a giant step today towards becoming a global center for food systems education. The leaders of six of Vermont’s higher education institutions were at the State House to sign a groundbreaking agreement to create a premier destination for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree students who want to learn how to advance sustainable and robust food systems. By pledging to use Vermont as a shared food systems campus, the founding members of this new consortium will offer students a rich array of cross-institutional experiences and strengthen the state’s reputation as the national educational leader in innovative food systems implementation.
Green Mountain College, Sterling College, the University of Vermont, Vermont Law School, Vermont Technical College, and the Vermont State Colleges are the founding members of the Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium. The Consortium will work as a team to strengthen Vermont’s place as a world-renowned center for food systems training, education, research, and outreach.
Over the next few years, Consortium members will focus on sharing courses, internships, land-based learning experiences, faculty, and annual symposia across institutions. At the same time, it will develop a coordinated marketing campaign to tell the story of the diverse and creative educational opportunities available for studying food systems in Vermont.
“Vermont’s higher education institutions have graduated generations of Vermont farmers, foresters and value added entrepreneurs,” stated Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin. “Today they are taking an historic step of doing this work better together, with this collaboration offering students from across the country an unprecedented set of experiences in our working landscape. This will attract new youth to rural Vermont communities, spur innovation in the food and forest economies, and help all of us who are working to conserve Vermont’s working landscape in production for the long-term future.”
Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, believes this consortium is poised to foster the next generation of food system leaders. “Vermont already leads the country in community-based agriculture and is renowned for its focus on sustainability. This consortium ensures the momentum will only build in the years to come. I applaud these institutions for joining forces to build this important program, which I am confident will have a tremendous impact on our local, national, and global food system.”
The Food System encompasses the cultural, economic, ecological, sociological, nutritional, and health aspects of our food, including farming, value-added production, transportation, energy usage, marketing, distribution, and consumption. The Consortium members are united in their commitment to advance this work for Vermont and for communities throughout the region, the country, and the world. Through its collective educational resources, the Consortium will dramatically expand the innovative growth of the leadership, skill, and vision that the progress of the food system depends upon.
The Consortium grew out of the Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Council which was founded and facilitated by the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD). For information about the Consortium, contact VCRD Executive Director Paul Costello at firstname.lastname@example.org or(802) 223-5763.
Statements from the Presidents, Dean, and Chancellor follow:
“We look forward to collaborating with our higher education partners in the state to strengthen Vermont’s leadership role in building community-focused food systems that promote sustainability, local engagement and economic development.”
-Tom Sullivan, President, University of Vermont
“At the Vermont State Colleges, we pride ourselves on our mission of serving Vermont students with access to learning experiences which will help them achieve great things for our state. This collaboration holds excellent potential to increase awareness of Vermont institutions as places with broad access to innovative experiences in the food system, where students can get their hands dirty in pursuit of knowledge and a vibrant future.”
-Tim Donovan, Chancellor, Vermont State Colleges
“Vermont Tech is committed to being a leader in applied agriculture and food systems education in Vermont and New England. Vermont provides a unique educational landscape for the promotion of agriculture and food systems education. The establishment of the Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium provides a unique opportunity for the colleges and universities to expand collaboration and educational opportunities for students across America and around the world to come to study in our unique food systems laboratory that is Vermont.”
-Phil Conroy, President, Vermont Technical College
“Vermont is at the forefront of important changes in how we view agriculture and our global food system. With this new emphasis on collaboration in higher education, we will ensure that the state remains a pioneer and incubator by leading the way forward to a more just and healthy food system.”
-Matthew Derr, President, Sterling College
“Green Mountain College‘s graduate and undergraduate programs in sustainable food systems have seen dramatic growth in the last few years. We see tremendous promise for this new consortium to expand opportunities for students across the state and make Vermont the national leader in food systems education.”
-Paul Fonteyn, President, Green Mountain College
“This collaboration advances an alliance between two of Vermont’s major economic drivers—education and agriculture. Each of our schools is devoted to advancing community-based agriculture. Together we can utilize Vermont’s iconic brand to attract more students from around the nation and the world, and offer them a more complete education.”
-Marc Mihaly, Dean, Vermont Law School