• Editor's Note Winter 2017

    Editor's Note Winter 2017

    “If you’re going to Québec City, you have to visit a cabane à sucre,” said Claire. And her good advice was confirmed as soon as my partner and I walked into Cabane à Sucre Leclerc in Neuville on a chilly, snowy evening.

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  • Set the Table with Poutine

    Set the Table with Poutine

    I grew up in California, in a world of dayboat salmon, tofu, and spinach salad. I only became vaguely aware of the odd sounding “poutine” when I moved to Vermont. French fries with gravy and cheese curds? I mean, that all sounds weird enough without including the word “curds” at the end.

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  • Along the Route des Vins

    Along the Route des Vins

    In the first unpredictable weeks of spring, workers at Québec’s Léon Courville vineyard lay the bones of 1,200 tiny bonfires between the vines.

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  • So Close And Yet So Far

    So Close And Yet So Far

    Ask people in agriculture about the challenges of selling Vermont food in Québec, and folks tend to have the same first reaction.

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  • Au Marché

    Au Marché

    On a sunny, crisp day in early September, a friend and I meandered over the border to visit three Québec farmers’ markets.

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  • Neighbors to the North—Of Loaves and Land

    Neighbors to the North—Of Loaves and Land

    Every week at Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex, six tons of flour is mixed, kneaded, and transformed into 18,000 loaves of bread.

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  • Neighbors to the North—Seeding Relationships

    Neighbors to the North—Seeding Relationships

    Some 20 years ago, when Tom Stearns of High Mowing Seeds was living in Holland, Vermont, just on the border with Québec, he met Laurier Chabot at a biodynamic agriculture conference.

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  • Neighbors to the North—A Vintner Mentor

    Neighbors to the North—A Vintner Mentor

    When David and Linda Boyden started Boyden Valley Winery in Cambridge in 1996, they had zero experience in viticulture or oenology, save for a class that David had taken at Cornell University.

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  • Neighbors to the North—A Plethora of Produce

    Neighbors to the North—A Plethora of Produce

    Imagine two Caesar salads: Both are tossed in that classic salty dressing and topped with croutons, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. And both salads have, as their base, crisp and crunchy romaine lettuce.

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  • Neighbors to the North—Fields  of  Gold

    Neighbors to the North—Fields of Gold

    Jack Lazor called me at 8:00 p.m. the other night, which surprised me. I’m used to dairy farmer hours, and 8:00 p.m is past bedtime for most dairymen and women I’ve known.

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  • Neighbors to the North—A Porcine Quest

    Neighbors to the North—A Porcine Quest

    Vermont Salumi, a small company making fresh sausages and hand-tied salami in the Italian tradition, is based just outside Plainfield.

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  • To Market, to Bank

    To Market, to Bank

    Québecois grower Jean-Martin Fortier draws a distinction between a good living and a good life.  “’A good living’ mostly refers to how much money you make,” he tells me during a phone call. A good life, in contrast, takes into account “how your time is spent, and to what purpose.”

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  • Last Morsel—My Family’s French Canadian Kitchen

    Last Morsel—My Family’s French Canadian Kitchen

    Whenever I catch a whiff of cinnamon or cloves, my mind drifts to my mother’s kitchen and the French Canadian food traditions that shaped how I learned to cook.

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Stay Rooted in Vermont with Local Food

Stay Rooted in Vermont with Local Food

Written By

Helen Labun Jordan

Written on

August 16 , 2017

If you live in Vermont, chances are that at some time during the year you’ll be eating food that was either grown or processed (or both) in Vermont. Some people seek these foods out, but a lot of Vermonters simply happen across them, as they always have—Vermont roasted coffee at the gas station, a few extra zucchinis from anyone who has a garden. Maple syrup. Fishing trips. Hunting trips. Not to mention that 64 percent of all New England milk comes from Vermont cows.

Rooted in Vermont, which originated in the Farm to Plate Network at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF), would like everyone to remember that lots of people ate these Vermont foods before “local” became alive with marketing buzz.

“In talking to Vermonters around the state who do not identify themselves as ‘locavores’ or foodies…those people spoke loud and clear about feeling like hunting, and gardening, and foraging were some of the original ways Vermonters had access to local food, and that those things are not part of the current discussions about local food, and instead it’s a lot of expensive food, fancy food,” says Rachel Carter, communications director at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. “That’s created a sense of irritation among Vermonters…they want connections to the original local food, not the trendiness of recent years.”

Rooted in Vermont aims to spark a cultural shift so that all Vermonters feel included in the local foods movement. Toward that end, they spent the last year experimenting with social media, using #RootedInVermont to encourage everyone to share the ways they connect with local food. Examples on their Facebook page include photographs from UVM and the Vermont Historical Society, gardening tips, an article on the cost of local food, and information about Vermont foods such as garlic scapes, cheese, and strawberries. The Instagram account takes advantage of Vermont food’s photogenic qualities; it includes community meals, piglets, many shots of fish, garden harvests, and farmers’ markets.

Rachel emphasizes that “We’re not promoting events, not telling people to buy things, just building a relationship.”

Liz Ruffa, co-chair of the Consumer Education and Marketing Working Group of the Farm to Plate Network, explains, “What’s really powerful about Rooted in Vermont is that this is sort of both a PSA and a local food promotion campaign…it resonates with Vermont values of pride, equity, and tradition—values that Vermonters hold so dear—and this value proposition is getting woven into support of local food.”

The goal at the moment isn’t increasing farmers’ sales, per se, it’s helping everyone see themselves as part of the local foods movement through highlighting the ways they already are.

While it currently de-emphasizes any economic transactions, Rooted in Vermont is also playing the long game for local food purchasing. The idea is that when local foods become mainstream, showing up in quantity at supermarkets and similar outlets, there will be plenty of customers waiting to buy them. These customers still may not go out of their way to find local food, but they would look for that “Vermont” label on shelves where they normally shop. This outcome would highlight a major strength in the “network” element of the Farm to Plate Network: one committee focuses on building demand for local food among more consumer groups, while other committees work on building the supply to the places where those consumers shop. Combine the two projects and everyone wins.

The lineage of Rooted in Vermont traces the ways that Farm to Plate works as a network. It begins with a 2009 legislative mandate to the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund to develop a plan for promoting local foods. The resulting Farm to Plate Plan was published in 2011 with, from Chapter One, an “…ultimate purpose to encourage policies and strategic investments that accelerate the movement toward strong local and regional food systems.” The plan identifies 25 goals for supporting Vermont food and dozens of strategies, objectives, and measurements beneath those goals. Goals are focused around the year 2020, although not all the work is expected to be completed at that time. Rachel puts the cultural shift timeline for Rooted in Vermont at 5 to 10 years from its beginning last year.

The Farm to Plate Network is the individuals and organizations working to reach the plan’s goals. Formally, it includes five working groups, five teams working on cross cutting issues, and additional task forces formed within those working groups and teams. The Consumer Marketing and Education Working Group, where Rooted in Vermont originated, used Farm to Plate research that included surveys—followed by focus groups held around the state—to sketch out a Rooted in Vermont concept. This concept was refined further by a Task Force, followed by hiring content creators and managers, who tested Rooted in Vermont on social media before developing a more detailed plan for a statewide launch this summer.

Today, Rooted in Vermont is the first project from a Farm to Plate Working Group to receive full staffing at VSJF—they hired Shane Rogers, formerly of Green Mountain Farm to School, as project manager in July of this year.

Liz notes that Rooted in Vermont is a good pick for this level of investment because the group has demonstrated the full-time nature of work involved. Within Farm to Plate’s plan for progress toward 2020, “…access and affordability are the overarching goals, and Rooted in Vermont advances those outcomes,” she explains.

Communications director Carter anticipates this hire will allow for focusing more energy on community outreach across the state. Shane will work with community organizers who can help achieve the elusive word-of-mouth source of local food recommendation and endorsement. Rachel emphasizes that this work is a grassroots movement and that the full-time manager will help that grassroots component “lift off.”  “Rooted in Vermont is a way for all Vermonters to feel connected to the local food movement,” she summarizes. Ultimately, it provides tools for everyone who enjoys Vermont foods to share that experience with others and to identify themselves as “Rooted in Vermont’”

You can follow Rooted in Vermont on Facebook: facebook.com/RootedinVermont; Twitter: twitter.com/rootedinvermont; and Instagram: instagram.com/rootedinvermont/. Businesses, organizations, and Vermont communities can get involved too. Learn more at http://bit.ly/RootedinVermontMovement.

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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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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Home Stories Issues 2017 Fall '17 | Issue forty-two Stay Rooted in Vermont with Local Food