• Eat it on the Radio

    Eat it on the Radio

    In his book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, Vermont author and environmentalist Bill McKibben focuses on the importance of strong communities for the health and well-being of the planet and its people. He suggests that we can strengthen our home regions by producing more of our own food, generating more of our own energy, and even creating more of our own culture and entertainment. To achieve these goals, McKibben advises, we need to build or rebuild local institutions that draw people together, and one such institution that he cites in his book is a low-power radio station in the Mad River Valley: WMRW-LP Warren, 95.1 FM.

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  • A Passion for Artisan Soap

    A Passion for Artisan Soap

    My soap-making journey started a decade or so ago, when I was becoming more and more sensitized (allergic) to mainstream, detergent-type soaps. Eventually I just couldn’t use them anymore. As I researched the subject, I became alarmed at what was being used in cosmetic products on the market, not to mention all the harmful chemicals leaching into our waterways as a result of those products. I decided to start making my own soap, and the enthusiasm I had back then for soap making has now turned into a passion and a business for me. My only regret is that I didn’t start making them sooner!

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  • Halal in the Hills

    Halal in the Hills

    Art Meade is a 59-year-old livestock and poultry farmer with a thick Maine accent and a farm on Route 100 in Morrisville. He also happens to run the only state-licensed slaughter facility in Vermont that caters to Muslims who practice halal slaughter. This is the Muslim tradition of swiftly slitting the throat of a domesticated meat animal with a sharp knife; the animal is believed to be killed instantly and painlessly (though there is some debate about that). Muslims, who are directed by their religion to eat halal meat, can purchase such meat in Vermont stores, but some prefer to do the slaughter themselves.

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  • How to Start a Community Garden

    How to Start a Community Garden

    Back in January, as my husband and I searched for a place to live in Middlebury, we had big plans to create a summer vegetable garden. But it quickly became clear that housing in town with gardening space wouldn’t be easy to find. Apartments that advertised a “big yard” always seemed to have a “scruffy lawn,” and few landlords reacted well to my desire to dig out a portion of that lawn to plant vegetables.

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  • The Story of Bread

    The Story of Bread

    Green Mountain Flour, a new artisan bakery in Windsor owned and operated by Zachary Stremlau and Daniella Malin, takes a unique approach to its craft: it uses local wheat, local milling, and local fuel to create its flours, breads, and pizzas. Here, woodcuts that comprise the bakery’s logo tell “the story of bread,” echoing a time in early New England when, according to Zachary and Daniella, “the farmers knew the miller, the miller milled with stone, and the baker baked with fire.”

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  • How to Get Grounded

    How to Get Grounded

    On a road in Cabot, not far from the land that Laura Dale and Cyrus Pond bought this past March, you can look out to the west at a horizon dominated by the undulating spine of the Green Mountains. For many young farmers in Vermont, the cost of land can seem as daunting and insurmountable as the largest of those mountains in the dead of winter.

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  • Tapping for Taste

    Tapping for Taste

    There are people in Vermont who prefer fake maple syrup—not just people who are looking for something cheaper but who actually prefer the stuff made of corn syrup. There are other people in Vermont who don’t talk to those fake syrup types. And there are Vermonters who stand by Grade B for all occasions and others who keep a little Fancy on hand.

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  • Classy Wheat

    Classy Wheat

    Last year, I arrived at The Putney School as their new gardener and was tasked with getting the high school students at this Putney boarding and day school excited about gardening. Early on, the farm manager told me he had planted some wheat on the edge of one of the farm’s hayfields. I was intrigued.

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  • Farm Camp—Planting Confidence, Harvesting Strength

    Farm Camp—Planting Confidence, Harvesting Strength

    As I downshift off the Putney exit of I-91, my husband, Jerry, is roused from his dozing by the hollow sound of several hundred jostling maple syrup jugs. It’s April, time to buy containers for our maple syrup at Bascom’s 10% container sale, and time to post Farm Camp flyers.

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  • The First Localvores

    The First Localvores

    I have always been fascinated by wild foods. When I was a kid growing up in Indiana we had a copy of Euell Gibbons’ book Stalking the Wild Asparagus, and I remember how exciting it was to read about eating cattails, making acorn flour, and brewing sassafras tea. As I recall, the cattail stalks tasted a bit like mild turnips, the acorn flour was tannic and needed a lot of processing before being edible, and the tea tasted like something just this side of root beer. Little did I know as a kid that wild edibles such as cattails and acorns were just a couple of the foods historically gathered and consumed by the first people to inhabit the state I would one day call home.

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  • Getting Everyone to the Table

    Getting Everyone to the Table

    Back in January, as my husband and I searched for a place to live in Middlebury, we had big plans to create a summer vegetable garden. But it quickly became clear that housing in town with gardening space wouldn’t be easy to find. Apartments that advertised a “big yard” always seemed to have a “scruffy lawn,” and few landlords reacted well to my desire to dig out a portion of that lawn to plant vegetables.

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  • A 10-Year Stroll

    A 10-Year Stroll

    With hundreds of spectators lining Main Street in Brattleboro, the groomed and bedazzled heifers are led down the center of the street to the cheers of onlookers. Hundreds of cows preen for the delighted crowd, followed by more farm animals (bulls, goats, and horses), tractors (also decorated for the parade) floats, clowns, marching bands, street performers, and all manner of groups touting their various farm affiliations.

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  • Cookbooks, Culture,  and Community

    Cookbooks, Culture, and Community

    The case for local nuts. No, I’m not talking about your odd mother-in-law, your bizarre ex-boyfriend, or that whacko who expresses herself, extensively, at town meeting. And I don’t mean aficionados or extremely enthusiastic people. I mean those portable nuggets of nutrition, held aloft by tree limbs. A nut, technically speaking, is a big seed enclosed by a hard shell. And even though you’re now fantasizing about almond and macadamia instead of weirdo and diehard, I’m here to tell you about what nuts we can grow in Vermont, and why.

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  • After the Fire

    After the Fire

    Barn’s burnt down…now I can see the moon. –Chinese proverb

    Yet the converse is also true: Yes, we can see the moon, but it won’t shelter tractors, nor can vegetables be washed, packed, and stored inside its lovely glow. Oh, the moon is beautiful, but what can it do for food and a business after the fire is put out?

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Airport Flies Toward Local

Burlington International will soon have a local foods restaurant—actually, three of them

Skinny Pancake

Written By

Benjy Adler

Written on

October 25 , 2012

In January 2013, The Skinny Pancake will open what is likely to be the first-ever local foods restaurant in an American airport. In fact, we’re opening three of them at the Burlington International Airport (BTV): a Skinny Pancake in each of the two post-security terminals and a Chubby Muffin kiosk across from the check-in counters on the first floor.

For those of you who don’t know us, The Skinny Pancake and Chubby Muffin are sister-concept restaurants in Burlington and Montpelier with a mission to “change the world by building a safer, healthier, more delicious foodshed while creating everyday enjoyment that is fun and affordable.”  We’re excited to be bringing our hyper-local food philosophy and buying practices to BTV.

Menus at our airport locations will feature grab-n-go sandwiches and snacks, as well as plated sit-down meals featuring our core product: hearty crepes made with local ingredients. We’ll also offer a bar with espresso, tea, and a full selection of beers, wines and spirits. All of our meats and cheeses will be local year-round, our veggies will be local seasonally, and local alcohol options will be prominently featured. At a bare minimum, we will ensure that at least 50 percent of our purchasing goes to local raw and value-added products, although we certainly expect to beat that number.

In addition, the walls of each location will be adorned with images of our farmers and a map of our local foodshed. We will proudly celebrate the ripe and sophisticated local food movement here in Vermont and educate travelers about the importance of buying local. While there are local food enthusiasts pushing the envelope at a few other airports—a local foods pizzeria at the Martha’s Vineyard airport, an aeroponic vegetable garden at Chicago O’Hare—no airport eateries appear to have “gone local” to this degree.

For a motley crew of post-collegiate bohemians, teaming up with a formal institution like BTV is an unlikely twist in a decade-long tale full of surprises. As our company philosophy has evolved from survival to success defined by multiple bottom lines, our growth is increasingly driven by purpose over profit, and the BTV project fits this intention like a glove.


The Skinny Pancake was born as a fledgling street cart on the streets of Burlington during the baking-hot summer of 2003. She had a room in our rental apartment, packed with dry goods and storage racks. We shared the kitchen with her and, it seemed, cleaned up after her constantly. Indeed, she was a colicky baby. Working at a rate immeasurably below minimum wage, we lived and breathed “The Pancake.” Surely, somewhere in the venerable halls of the School of Hard Knocks, there hangs a plaque commemorating those early years. At the time, our focus was on making it work, not on changing the world.

As “The Skinny” developed from an infant into a toddler, a distinct personality emerged: fun, conscientious, purposeful, creative on the outside, determined within. We bought a bus, converted it to run on vegetable oil and adventured to fairs and festivals. In 2006, we became the first food cart to join the Vermont Fresh Network. As our little brand gained a good reputation and developed reliable revenues, we looked to our idols—Ben & Jerry’s, American Flatbread, Patagonia—and with outsized confidence thought, “If they can do it, so can we.”

Fast forwarding five years, The Skinny Pancake has now grown into a young adult, with bricks-and-mortar locations on Burlington’s waterfront, the Old North End, and in downtown Montpelier. We also operate an airstream trailer in “vendor ally” at UVM, our original cart on Church Street is humming along, and our forays into fairs and festivals have led to “Have Your Cake Catering,” which plans appearances at everything from weddings to corporate luncheons to county fairs. At our peak this summer, we will have more than 80 employees.

Most importantly, after those early years of just struggling to survive, our social mission has grown to become the driving force behind our business. At its core is a deep-seated belief in the power of conscientious capitalism. We demonstrate the efficacy of this philosophy daily through the persistent act of buying local. In our last annual audit, we found that 68.6 percent of all food and beverage purchases went to local raw and value-added products. In other words, we spend over $500,000 annually within the local economy. And ultimately, the vast majority of all the revenues we take in go right back out the door (and very quickly, I might add). Whereas The Skinny Pancake could carelessly purchase food from major distributors and ship all of that cash out of state, we carefully direct our spending with the intention of having a positive impact on Vermont farms, businesses, and communities. We believe our spending habits will “improve the view of the food S.C.E.N.E.” (Security, Community, Economy, Nutrition, Environment).

Keeping local food consistently available and affordable has required us to develop additional infrastructure and unique skills. We now have a “local food systems coordinator” (Jeremy Silansky) who works directly with farmers. Each winter, Jeremy forecasts our demand for the following year and contracts directly with farmers for the needed supply. Consequently, the farmers have a reliable source of income and we get competitive pricing. And wherever possible, we buy bumper crops during harvest season; farmers avoid spoilage and we get a good deal. These techniques require a knowledgeable staff and a facility capable of receiving, processing, and storing produce for the late fall, winter and spring.

In addition to our approach of “consumer power on a corporate level,” last fall we joined “1 percent for the Planet,” becoming the largest business in Vermont to take the pledge to donate 1% of all revenues to environmental nonprofits. With margins that are already a tad threadbare, this choice may strike people as misguided. In fact, this counter-intuitive commitment falls right in line with our philosophy. As Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chuinard explains, “Every time I’ve done the right thing for the environment I’ve made a profit.” In essence, we believe that in doing good, we will do good business. The goodwill we gain for having taken this pledge is demonstrable and measurable. Rather than sap us of our profits, it has strengthened our revenues and reputation.


Enter the Burlington International Airport. In the winter of 2012, BTV issued a 70-page “Request For Proposal” to take over and manage the food service there. The RFP emphasized “local food sources and Vermont-made products.” As we took in this behemoth of an RFP, we considered the landscape: in Burlington, we have extraordinary examples of local food innovation from impressive institutions including the Intervale, Fletcher Allen hospital system, and the Onion River Co-op (City Market). Their deep commitment to using local foods is built on decades of developing a remarkable network of farmers and food producers, local distributors, nonprofits, restaurants, co-ops, community awareness, and demand. We reasoned that if they can “go local” thanks to this network, then BTV could, too.

Vermont’s largest airport boasts 650,000 enplanements annually, including locals traveling abroad, tourists visiting Vermont, and business travelers. With spending at similarly sized airports averaging $3.48 per departing passenger, we know we can help redirect hundreds of thousands of dollars back into the local food economy. Furthermore, we have a genuine opportunity to promote Vermont’s agricultural and working landscape, help educate travelers, and build on Vermont’s momentum as a hotbed of local food innovation. Successfully delivering local foods en masse to consumers at BTV will send a powerful message that local food need not be relegated to the realm of indulgence and luxury—it can be part of our everyday lives. Or, as we say here at the ‘Cake, “localvore is not haute-couture!”

A decade ago, it would have been beyond our wildest dreams to have imagined collaborating with an airport on a localvore food service project. Now, it is an impending reality. We thoroughly understand that we will be the first and last impression of Vermont for many travelers, which is a great privilege and an even greater responsibility to everyone who lives in and loves our state. We hope to send a message beyond the borders of this back-to-the-land mecca: local food can be accessible, affordable, and fun. We will strive to make every Vermonter proud, every traveler welcomed, and everyone aware of the power of place in the food we eat.

So please wish us luck, and next year when you visit the airport, say hello!

About the Author

Benjy Adler

Benjy Adler

Benjy Adler is the founder and co-owner of The Skinny Pancake, Chubby Muffin, and Have Your Cake Catering. He lives within walking distance of the company commissary in the Old North End of Burlington.htt

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Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.


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