UVM & University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Foster Food Resilience

A group of participants from UVM and University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez standing together after a workshop.
Participants in the Food Resilience Workshop held at UVM.

From July 11 to 15, 2022, a team of faculty, graduate students and community partners from University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez (UPRM) visited Vermont, and participated in a series of tours and a workshop to explore food resilience in the two regions.

The UVM team brings expertise in farm-to-institution, farm viability, and local and regional food market development, while UPRM has expertise in disaster response and community engagement. It is our goal to share and learn from our respective strengths and cooperate in efforts to foster food resilience.

The goal of the tours was to familiarize the Vermont and Puerto Rico (PR) partners with food resilience efforts in Vermont, including:

  • Farm incubation
  • Financial management and succession planning
  • Institutional food service (farm to institution)
  • Value-added production
  • Gleaning (food recovery)
  • Workforce development agritourism
  • Strategic partnerships

The goal of the workshop was to familiarize Vermont stakeholders with lessons learned from disaster recovery and community engagement for food resilience.

Resilience in Food Systems

Food resilience can be defined as a system’s ability to withstand and recover from shocks such as natural disasters, climate change and public health crises. Each region has experienced shocks over the past several years, including tropical storms/hurricanes and the Covid-1 pandemic. Despite the differences in latitude, climate, language and culture, Vermont and PR face very similar challenges in community development and food systems, including affordable housing, job opportunities for young people, farm viability (especially small-scale dairy farms), land tenure, and competition from cheap imported foods.

Workshop and Tours

On Monday July 11, the team first visited the University of Vermont Medical Center Nutrition Services and learned about their rooftop gardens, local food procurement and culinary medicine efforts from Lisa Hoare and Leah Pryor, Next, we traveled to the Intervale Center and learned about farm incubators, season extension technologies and climate resilience from Christine Badalamenti Smith.

The team had lunch at UVM Dining and learned about statewide local and regional food procurement from Sodexos Annie Rowell and Melissa Zelazny. After lunch the team went to Shelburne and met with Azur Moulaert at Vermont Tortilla to learn about artisan food processing and their partnerships with local farms.

Food resilience tour participants stand next to a raised bed planting of vegetables.
Tour participants at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

On Tuesday July 12, we met up with UVM Extension’s Mark Cannella, and toured local dairy farm Lanphear Farm and artisan cheesemaker Mount Mansfield Creamery.

UVM Extension Mark Cannella with the food resilience tour group standing in front of the Vermont Statehouse.
Mark Cannella, far left, with the food resilience tour group at the Vermont Statehouse.

Wednesday, July 13 was spent presenting at an all-day Food Resilience Workshop on the UVM campus. Representatives from USDA Rural Development, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, UVM Extension, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and various UVM faculty met to learn about disaster response, food resilience and community engagement efforts in PR, and a new food resilience toolkit which is being developed by the project teams.

Thursday was another day of tours, beginning with UVM’s Terry Bradshaw leading a tour of the the UVM Horticulture Research and Education Center, with discussions around apple and grape research and the farmer training program. In the afternoon, the team visited Allison Levin at Community Harvest of Central Vermont and learned about their gleaning (food surplus recovery) efforts. The tour ended at Templeton Farm where the team learned from Bruce Chapell about agritourism and maple sugaring, sampling delicious maple syrup drizzled over locally made ice cream.

A group of food resilience tour participants visiting the UVM Hort Farm.
The food resilience group tour of the UVM Hort Farm.

On their final day in Vermont, the team visited the Burlington School Food Projects gardens at Champlin Elementary School and had lunch at the student-run Fork in the Road food truck.

The UPRM team noted the value of the visit. Dr. Robinson Rodriguez-Perez of UPRM valued seeing examples of “meaningful community transformation in action”, while PR dairy and lamb farmer Neftali Lluch was eager to “take ideas to be implemented here in Puerto Rico, helping to improve food resilience in our island.”

%d bloggers like this: