Virginia Farm to Table Plan of Action

The Virginia Farm to Table Plan’s objective is to identify issues facing farmers, innovators in the food system, and communities across the state, and to suggest how those can be addressed to strengthen Virginia’s overall food system. The Virginia Farm to Table Plan Team drew on the expertise
and experience of more than 1,920 individuals across the Commonwealth who work in agriculture, aquaculture, fishing, education, finance, philanthropy, nutrition, community planning and economic development, land and natural resources conservation, public policy, local and state government, academics, and youth development. The 38 farm to table recommendations were developed and distilled from research and information gathered from farm-to-table summits, forums, listening sessions, an online survey, and focus group meetings conducted over a 15-month period by the Virginia Farm to Table Team and the Virginia Food System Council.

Facilitated discussions were held at the 2nd Virginia Food Security Summit to review the Plan’s top eight recommendations for immediate action and implementation. Based on discussions and results of a written survey at the
Summit, the following recommendations for immediate implementation and action were further vetted to develop actionable steps (University of Virginia, 2012).

Criteria for selecting the top three action steps for each recomendation

  • How powerful is the action likely to be to implementing this strategic priority?
  • Is the action practical?
  • Is the action doable in a timeframe of 1- 2 years?
  • If the action affordable (people, effort, and money)?Is the action politically feasible?

1. The Virginia Food System Council with its participating organizations will shepherd and support the implementation of the Virginia Farm to Table Plan by working closely with universities, agencies, organizations, funders and the private sector. The Council will develop and report on within 9 months:

a. A structural framework that is transparent, inclusive, and clear, and that draws connections across sectors.

b. A marketing plan that distinguishes between different constituencies and among different purposes: education, policy, and alliances.

c. A business plan that includes a budget, identifies the variety of funders, and targets specific actions to specific funders.

2. Work with the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition, coordinated by Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to recruit, train, and establish the next generation of farmers and farm workers to provide quality food through ecologically sound and profitable production systems.

a. Expand farming education in order to re-energize the idea of farming and to address the changing nature of farms.

b. Focus efforts on working and teaching farms that provide training, apprenticeships, and labor opportunities.

c. Expand the marketing in order to help the coalition grow.

3. Establish a Virginia food system report card to facilitate assessment and collection of baseline data for monitoring hunger, health, environmental performance, and advancements of Virginia’s food system.

a. Conduct an assessment and analysis of local foodsheds in order to build baseline data for the report card.

b. Delineate benchmarks and be sure to address desired outcomes based on a community agreement.

c. Create a working group that is regional and consists of a broad base of stakeholders.

4. Work with the Virginia Food System Council to remove barriers that impede the development and expansion of the production, processing, distribution, and marketing capacity of locally-grown Virginia foods.

a. Facilitate the development of standards for direct sales to consumers to provide transparency and access to reliable, factual information.

b. Ensure proper scales for establishing processing regulations, infrastructure, and resource assistance for farmers that need help overcoming hurdles.

c. Make farmland more accessible for young farmers (including financially).

5. Work with state and federal agencies and institutions to increase their support for locally-grown Virginia food and farm products.

a. Overcome bureaucratic regulation barriers for implementing the use of local food in all state and county level institutions.

b. Help producers in overcoming bureaucratic and regulation barriers

c. Develop education for all people, from pre-Kindergarten to higher education to consumer and producer awareness.

6. Set measurable goals and track procurement purchases and costs of locally-grown Virginia food and farm products for all state agencies, schools, universities, and other institutions.

a. Streamline and standardize guidelines for purchasers, farmers, and distributors.

b. Educate both purchasers and farmers about all the opportunities that are available to them as well as institutional needs.

c. We need a statewide umbrella system to track progress that works for everyone.

7. Establish a comprehensive informational website and networking resource for all Virginia local food system resources and ecologically sound farming practices.

a. Identify the user base and the site owner.

b. Spell out how this site would function, what services it
would offer, and how it would look.

8. Establish a marketing campaign to challenge Virginia households and businesses to buy $10 per week of locally-grown Virginia food and farm products year round.

a. Include messages that explain the accessibility and
importance of local food.

b. The marketing campaign should take on a variety of forms.

c. The marketing campaign needs to be extensive and intensive to infiltrate and be visible in a wide variety of communities, places, and venues to affect all participants in Virginia’s food system.

Participants of the 2nd Virginia Food Security Summit also emphasized that ongoing education and institutional support should be overarching strategies for advancing the Plan and its implementation. Additionally, summit participants emphasized that the Plan should be undergirded by values of community, compassion, justice, fairness, balanced leadership, equitable participation, resilience, self-reliance, independence, year
round availability and accessibility, and a strong viable future for all Virginia farmers and farmland.

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