The Central Vermont Region currently lacks the processing capacity to transform livestock into dinners and to put seasonal produce into a form that can be enjoyed year round. And while we have the distribution capacity, much of the distribution system is set up for a national scale, rather than a regional or local one — to bring tomatoes thousands of miles to New England stores. The reality is that national distributors deal in such volume and efficiency that they can still keep a small carbon footprint — and that fresh, juicy, succulent local tomatoes may have a larger footprint if they are driven in small loads in many different trucks to the same farmers market.
What’s needed is a local and regional distribution network that combines the logistical efficiency of the national system with the sustainable production and high product quality of the local system. Thus is a process that the Farm to Plate Strategic Working groups are examining at the state-level.
At the broader level, the University of Wisconsin’s Agricultural Innovation Center and the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) researched distribution models for local food across the United States in 2009. Although their research is now somewhat dated, they found that entrepreneurs, cooperatives and nonprofits are filling an important missing link in local food systems: aggregating food from local farms and distributing it to stores, restaurants, eaters and other retailers and end users. CIAS created a map of some of these distribution models.
There are a variety of distribution companies that operate and transport products in and through Central Vermont, but there are only a few that specialize in moving small volumes of local, farm-fresh products. CVRPC is in the process of mapping the known distributors based on data collected in-house and the Vermont Farm to Plate (F2P) data.