• Publishers' Note Spring 2011

    Publishers' Note Spring 2011

    Who doesn’t love the first signs of spring? As soon as we see the sap buckets being readied and hung on waiting maple trees, we know for sure that winter’s grip is beginning to ease. We also know that soon we’ll be making our yearly trek to the sugarhouse near us to witness the age-old rituals and to get a taste of that wonderful sweetness in all its variety, from fancy to dark amber. In this issue, you can learn about the subtle and not so subtle taste differences in maple syrup.

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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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  • The Art of Growing Food

    The Art of Growing Food

    Gardeners can always learn from other gardeners, and I’ll admit that some of my best ideas have come from visiting other gardens and drawing from the past. We all start with the same basic ingredients—seeds, soil, and plants—yet the art of growing food can be expressed by a kitchen garden that goes beyond the practical straight rows of a vegetable garden to include herbs, flowers, and vegetables planted with a creative eye to balance color and height and to create an ornamental edible landscape.

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  • Lambing Time

    Lambing Time

    It’s 5:20 a.m. and a pale glimmer of dawn shows in the sky above the Northfield Range. I can just make out the ghosts of the sheep’s breath in the open doorway of the shed, and their dark forms nestled in the deep straw. They hear me coming and rise, grunting, their girths almost impossibly huge this late in March. Two of my 23 pregnant ewes gave birth the day before and the new lambs—two sets of twins—are cuddled close to the warmth of their mother’s bodies.

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  • What Washington Just Did—Food Safety

    What Washington Just Did—Food Safety

    In May of 2009, then-governor Douglas signed legislation that created the Vermont Farm to Plate Program. Over the following 18 months, hundreds of Vermonters came together at Farm to Plate Regional Food Summits to share ideas and strategies to support new farm and food enterprises and to strengthen local and regional markets for Vermont’s agricultural products. On January 12 of this year, in a packed room at the Vermont State House, the fruit of this excellent effort was presented in a comprehensive, 10-year strategic plan for new investments, programs, and legislation to support the continued development of Vermont’s local food system.

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  • Plant, Weed, Blog

    Plant, Weed, Blog

    When Vermonters think of local food, we tend to think of farmers’ markets, where each purchase comes with a personal exchange. Or we imagine a tour through Vermont’s characteristic working landscape. Or we recall fresh flavors and home-cooked dishes shared with friends.

    Or maybe we think of computers.

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  • The Best Farm Products You Can’t Eat

    The Best Farm Products You Can’t Eat

    We usually think of “food” when we think of “farming,” but many agricultural crops are turned into products that humans can’t eat. Such products are manufactured throughout Vermont today using various crops and livestock, and are therefore, like food items, creating jobs for Vermonters, keeping farmland in active use, and leading our state toward greater self-sufficiency. What follows is a series of articles about nine inedible farm products.

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  • Spring Cartoon—Localvore Picnic

    Spring Cartoon—Localvore Picnic

    If you go out in the woods today, you're in for a big suprise...

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  • Farmers' Kitchen Nitty Gritty Grains

    Farmers' Kitchen Nitty Gritty Grains

    Corn in Vermont fields is not uncommon, but wheat? In the 1800s wheat was a common sight on the rocky hillsides of the state, but as the country expanded westward, other land appeared to be more hospitable and profitable for the large production of wheat needed for a growing population. During the past decade, however, wheat in Vermont has had a rebirth of sorts. A small cadre of farmers have, individually and independently, decided to again give it a try by attempting to grow small quantity, high quality wheat—and they’ve been finding success.

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  • Last Morsel—Roots on the Rails

    Last Morsel—Roots on the Rails

    On summer evenings in the garden in Weathersfield, I know it’s nearly time to call it a day when the train whistle blows; over the river, Amtrak’s Vermonter is about to cross the highway in Cornish. As I stand up, knees cracking from too-long bending over the rows of carrots that want thinning, I think about the train on its trek north to St. Albans, and how tomorrow it will head south to Washington, DC. Back and forth, more than 600 miles, each day, every day.

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Plant, Weed, Blog

Typing on keyboard

Written By

Helen Labun Jordan

Written on

March 01 , 2011

When Vermonters think of local food, we tend to think of farmers’ markets, where each purchase comes with a personal exchange. Or we imagine a tour through Vermont’s characteristic working landscape. Or we recall fresh flavors and home-cooked dishes shared with friends.

Or maybe we think of computers.

As unlikely as it seems, the virtual world—which lacks taste, smell, or farmland—has entered the lives of farmers and the local food scene. In fact, it entered a few digital generations ago.

Jacques Couture, of Couture’s Maple Shop and Bed & Breakfast in Westfield, launched his first website back in 1991. Being online meant his farm near the Canadian border wasn’t so remote anymore. “It put us right on Main Street. No matter where you were in the world, you were on equal footing.” Twenty years later, 85 percent of his maple sales happen online.

Now, Jacques’s “Main Street” has changed yet again with the advent of social media. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and a host of simple, free, and interactive platforms are helping more consumers understand our local food system and more farmers tell their stories. For example, Jacques recently posted a short video guide to his farm and received new guest bookings because of it.

Jacques does see reasons for caution. He doesn’t want to spend his days learning new online programs. Returns from social media are notoriously hard to track. And he worries about the effect on customer service. “If a product is not 100 percent correct and the customer tells us, we will make it right—we do more than expected,” he says. “But if now they go straight to Facebook and slam us, then all we can do is damage control.”

There’s also the overriding issue of how much time updating content will take away from other chores on the farm. Dozens of Vermont farm blogs, websites, and Facebook pages have posting dates that trail off as the ground thaws or as once-popular publishing platforms become outdated.

For some farms, it makes sense to dedicate significant time to social media. Calley Hastings of Fat Toad Farm in Brookfield, a dairy selling goat’s milk caramel and goat cheese, estimates that networking and marketing take “about one-third of our time. Whether it’s demos, meeting stores, or social media, it’s fundamental to what we do—especially for a weird thing like [goat’s milk] caramel.”

Calley’s recipes, blog posts, Facebook network, and Twitter account have paid off. She keeps track of other local agriculture activities while telling about her own and stays in contact with customers located down the road or across the nation. She credits Fat Toad’s online presence with attracting attention from the New York Times to Japan’s Cuisine magazine.

Most local farm and food sites have a strong marketing aspect; many also have specific tools for existing customers. For example, the Green Mountain Crop Mob website organizes volunteers for work blitzes at local farms. AndPete’s Greens in Craftsbury publishes a blog that explains uses for the vegetables in its weekly CSA share. The site also provides a virtual bulletin board for members to exchange services, such as carpooling to CSA pick-up sites. As of this writing it was serving as an update page for the rebuilding of the farm’s barn after a January fire.

Social media sites, whatever their content, have the ultimate goal of building virtual community. The individual voice of the farmer, easy publishing that allows for frequent updates, diverse media for storytelling (such as Jacques’s video), and interactivity between farmer and online visitor all support this goal. Toward this end, Mara Welton of Half Pint Farm in Burlington led a Twitter workshop for farmers this February at the winter conference of the Northeast Organic Farmers Association. The Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick and Small Business Development Center will be offering workshops on the electronic marketplace this year.

Joyce Cellars, development officer at the Intervale Center in Burlington, follows the different ways Intervale farmers have built their online communities.  As an example, she points to the pick-your-own berry customers at Adam’s Berry Farm who follow the farm activities on Facebook long after the harvest is over. In October 2010, when Intervale farm fields began to flood, Adam’s posted a video of oncoming water to its Facebook page. Joyce immediately posted a call for help to save Intervale crops through the Intervale Center’s social media sites; local supporters forwarded it throughtheir sites, and through these online communities volunteers quickly arrived to save the harvest.

Meghan Sheradin, executive director of the Vermont Fresh Network, has been thinking about what systems help individual farmers create their virtual communities. “At this point it’s a pretty level playing field; whether you’re a small Vermont producer or a big business, you can create your own voice and get it out there,” she observes. The downside of that playing field is that it gets noisy.

One strategy for farmers to cut through the noise is to look for sites where people are naturally congregating, “where farmers can extend the conversation in their own voice,” as Meghan says. These sites get a critical mass of attention and activity, and farmers can check in just when they have something to say, linking back to their own sites for more information. The Vermont Fresh Network is providing one of these congregation points as Vermont’s only statewide organization focusing on the intersection of local food and restaurant dining.

Ultimately, though, Vermont farmers aren’t writing to inspire the next generation of readers; they want their audience to try a caramel recipe, step in during an emergency, and, of course, make a purchase. This means there will always be a mutually reinforcing back-and-forth between providing online info and using that info to find real-world farm and food experiences. Eventually, everything returns to that world of in-person exchange, outdoor exploration, and the great taste that we all associate with Vermont’s local foods.

Following, are a handful of local farm blogs, where you can keep up with spring plantings, new greenhouses, recipes popular with farm families, and more. Know of any active Vermont farm blogs not listed here? (We mean blogs by authors who have posted within the past three months.) Let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll add them to the list.


Fat Toad Farm – www.fattoadfarm.com

Half Pint Farm – http://halfpintfarm.com/

Under Orion Farm – http://catamountaviation.wordpress.com/

Bosky Dell Farm – http://boskydellfarm.blogspot.com/

Green Mountain Girls' Farm – http://vermontfarm.blogspot.com/

Sugar Mountain Farm – www.sugarmtnfarm.com

Jericho Settlers’ Farm – http://jsfarm.blogspot.com/

Liberty Hill Farm – http://vtfarm.wordpress.com/

Pete’s Greens – http://www.petesgreens.blogspot.com/

Gildrien Farm – http://www.gildrienfarm.com/blog.html

About the Author

Helen Labun Jordan

Helen Labun Jordan

Helen Labun is exploring creative cuisine as the chef-owner of Hel’s Kitchen in Montpelier (helskitchenvt.com).

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What we do

A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

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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