Course Allows Students to Explore Vermont Food Systems

As broadcasted by WCAX-TV, June 10, 2015:

A group of college and grad students is taking a first-of-its-kind course this month a tour of Vermont’s local food systems and working lands.

It’s another day of the Vermont Food Systems Summer Study Tour. The lesson at the Vermont Technical College farm- the economics of dairy production. “A cow’s goal is not that much different than most teenage boy’s in that the sense that they want to lie around and eat all day long, and if we can accommodate that a cow is an appetite with legs,” said VTC instructor Chris Dutton.

The 21-day excursion is designed to showcase and share Vermont’s food systems. From local CSAs to Farm to Table programs, the half-a-dozen students traverse the state and dive in deep, learning from farmers, producers and policy experts. “I think they’re getting exposed to just the tremendous diversity that’s in Vermont and the real excitement around our agricultural economy that’s happening right now,” Dutton said.

He says that’s exemplified in the kind of direct-to-consumer agriculture that only a small, rural state like Vermont can offer. Last week the group visited among other places gardens at Hunt Middle School in Burlington, and toured the cheese cellars at Jasper Hill in Greensboro.

The mostly out-of-state students come from a variety of backgrounds. Most agree Vermont has something unique to offer. “So we have people who obviously want to make a profit, but it’s placing into consideration the values of the land, relationships, how people work together,” said Chantal Mullen, a college student from Virginia.

“It’s fantastic, we’ve had great access to different groups around the state and a chance to talk to a lot of people at various places, so I think Vermont is special. I’m not sure I can replicate what’s happening here but maybe on a smaller scale,” said Darryl Mosher, a grad student from Rhinebeck, New York.

The tour was put together by the Vermont Council on Rural Development and The Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium, a group of six colleges that includes VTC. Course Co-Instructor Elissa Johnson says it has attracted a wide variety of students and shows tremendous potential for growth. “We’ve got everybody in between. We have some food systems thinkers, some people that are looking at labor and justice issues, which is huge in Vermont in the dairy industries particularly. So really who should take this course? Anyone who cares about food,” Johnson said.

The tour wraps up on the 21st with each student completing a final capstone project and a final celebration at Shelburne Farms.