• Publisher's Note Fall 2012

    Publisher's Note Fall 2012

    On a hot day in July we wrote a check for our winter CSA share. In a flash, images of squash and leeks and Brussels sprouts and carrots filled our heads. As thoughts turned to cozy fires and savory, hearty dishes, the temperature outside moved ever upward. It was an odd juxtaposition, but we were happy to know that our winter CSA would take the pressure off our summer gardening endeavors.

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  • Storing Your Harvest

    Storing Your Harvest

    Until the mid 1950s, gardeners often slaved away at canning— or putting into jars—as much food from the garden as possible. Tomatoes, beans, carrots, peas…you name it, our grannies canned it. This was a time when fresh produce at the grocery store was expensive in winter and often limp and bedraggled.

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  • New Choices and Opportunities in Vermont's Dairy Scene

    New Choices and Opportunities in Vermont's Dairy Scene

    If you’ve ever raised goats, you know it’s next to impossible to keep them within their fences. Now more goats are getting into Vermont cow barns—but it’s because farmers are putting them there on purpose.

    The primacy of cow dairy in Vermont agriculture is undisputed, but goats are edging into the local dairy world. Abysmal cow milk prices paired with rising costs have farmers looking for alternatives or supplements in order to keep their farms profitable. And the ever-increasing vacant cow dairy properties provide excellent locations for new goat farms.

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  • Reflections of a Restaurateur | Part 3

    Reflections of a Restaurateur | Part 3

    It’s 102 degrees in the kitchen, and the chef at my Montpelier restaurant is making quick work of cutting up a chicken. He slides a razor-sharp boning knife along the breast, loosening the meat from the sternum. The birds he’s working on are smaller than we would have liked—barely more than three pounds each—but this week, they were all we could get.

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  • Hothouse Hydro

    Hothouse Hydro

    Islands have always had a local food problem. Granted, they’re often located in warm environments, have rich soil, and enjoy the kind of tourists who might want to sample an obscure local vegetable. But for many sun worshippers, lush green hills and mangroves make for a stark contrast to the dull and unappetizing non-local food on their plates.

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  • Making Peace with Plants

    Making Peace with Plants

    I spent a recent morning clearing “alien” species out of one of my garden beds. By “alien” I don’t mean “non-native”; I just mean plants that I didn’t want in there, which is often what the word alien connotes: beings that don’t belong where they are.  I wanted an artistic arrangement of red and green shiso in that bed (shiso is a Japanese culinary herb—or weed, or medicinal plant, depending on your point of view—that grows wild in many parts of Asia).

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  • Airport Flies Toward Local

    Airport Flies Toward Local

    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.

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  • Neighbors Feeding Neighbors in St. Johnsbury

    Neighbors Feeding Neighbors in St. Johnsbury

    Standing in a local supermarket last August, scanning the shelves for a lemon to complete the ingredient list for my mother’s celebrated cucumber salad, I felt like a complete foreigner. I realized, as I surveyed the rows of coolly aligned produce, that it had been a full five months since I stepped foot inside a grocery store.

    This is because in the warmer months, the fruits of my own garden are frequently supplemented with produce and condiments from a variety of farm stands in the St. Johnsbury area and three local farmers’ markets.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Breakfast Pie

    Farmers' Kitchen—Breakfast Pie

    “You know what I could go for?” our 10-year-old son asked this morning. “A warm slice of apple pie.” He knows that apple pie is the only dessert he is allowed to have for breakfast. And those breakfast pies are always a treat, filled with apples that are a mixture of new varieties and century old heirlooms, all grown on our farm and harvested at the exact moment of perfection.

    We’re a small family operation in Walden Heights, in the Northeast Kingdom. We grow a great diversity of fruit species—apples, grapes, currants, gooseberries, cherries, blueberries, pears, raspberries, blackberries, and more—using organic methods and hand tools.

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  • Delivering Awe

    Delivering Awe

    When I arrived at Green Mountain Girls Farm in April for a yearlong apprenticeship, one of the many animals I met was Tacamba, a stocky but relatively skittish Boer goat, new to the farm. She was markedly more uncomfortable with us two-leggeds than her herd mates were, so Mari and Laura, farmers-in-chief, had spent some extra time socializing her with human interaction, hand-feeding her alfalfa cubes and petting her when she would let them.

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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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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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