MONTPELIER >> Vermont has added 5,300 food related jobs between 2009 and 2014, according to an annual report released Wednesday on Farm to Plate, a 10-year initiative to boost the state's food and farm economy.
The effort — with a budget last year of about $550,000 drawn from state funds, sponsorships and private donations — is at its midpoint.
When legislators passed the Farm to Plate Investment program, "we had no idea how much change might be possible," said Rep. Carolyn Partridge, D-Windham, a sheep farmer and the chairwoman of the House Agriculture and Forest Products committee.
Some of the highlights of the report are:
Local food purchases have increased by $189 billion between 2010 and 2014 and now make up 6.9 percent of total food purchases in the state, up from 5 percent. The Farm to Plate initiative calls for increasing that rate to 10 percent by 2020.
"We made good progress but we clearly have a ways to go," said Ellen Kahler, executive director of Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, which tracks the progress of the Farm to Plate goals. Next year, the initiative is launching a marketing campaign to get more Vermonters to understand the importance of buying local food, she said.
Among the local purchases that have increased are:
— Beverages by 17 percent
— Dairy by 15 percent
— Baked goods by 4 percent
— Meat by 4 percent
— Vegetables by 3 percent.
Food system gross sales — which includes food production, food manufacturing and food trade — are up 32 percent from 2007 to 2012. The sales now total $10 billion a year.
Net value added food manufacturing rose 58 percent from 2004 to 2013, while total value added manufacturing in the state fell 37 percent.
Jobs in food from retail and manufacturing to distribution and farm inputs rose by 12 percent or 5,300 jobs from 2009 to 2014.
Total manufacturing employment dropped by 22 percent from 2009 to 2014 while food manufacturing rose by about 40 percent.
Chittenden County has the most food system jobs at 14,860. Addison County had the most farms with 814. Franklin County was second in agricultural sales, behind Addison.