Kale – not cash – pays for a greenhouse

UVM Medical Center’s commitment to local farms boosts state economy by $2.7M

“It’s really helped us grow our business,” Christa Alexander of Jericho Settlers Farm says of a new heated greenhouse financed by The University of Vermont Medical Center. The farm she runs with her husband, Mark Fasching, is among 70 partners in the hospital’s nationally recognized program to support local, sustainable agriculture. Locally sourced food accounts for 44 percent of the UVM Medical Center’s food budget.

“With the extra capacity, we can fill orders for the Medical Center and supply new customers,” Alexander explains.

We buy from local producers because it’s better for our patients and the environment, but also to help build farm capacity.

Diane Imrie, director of Nutrition Services

Helping farmers expand their production is one way UVM Medical Center is helping grow the local food economy and, according to a new study from the University of Vermont, it boosts the broader economy as well.

Researchers from UVM’s Department of Community Development and Applied Economics and its Center for Rural Studies concluded that the UVM Medical Center contributed nearly $3 million to Vermont’s economy in 2012 through $1.6 million in direct food purchases, which generated an additional $1.1 million in economic benefits. Those benefits include salaries, purchases farmers make at stores in their community, and other ripple effects.

The warm green been salad served in our Garden Atrium includes greens from Jericho Settlers’ greenhouse.

“We buy from local producers because it’s better for our patients and the environment, but also to help build farm capacity,” says Diane Imrie, UVM Medical Center’s director of Nutrition Services. “As an anchor institution in our community, it’s a very important role we can play.”

Imrie says the UVM study can have impact beyond Vermont. “The research allowed me to think about how communities across the country can shift in a positive direction in terms of farm viability and health improvement.”

Jericho Settlers Farm repaid the greenhouse loan with fresh produce throughout last winter. “We could not have done this without the upfront funding and the ongoing support the hospital gives us and other local producers across the state,” says Alexander.

See WCAX-TV’s story on how the UVM Medical Center’s food budget contributes to the local economy.

Watch our video on our Health Care Shares partnership with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, providing free vegetables to food-insecure primary care patients.