• 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Taking it Slow in Italy

    Taking it Slow in Italy

    Getting together, the listening to and exchanging of ideas— that is the miracle of Terra Madre.”

    With this, Slow Food International founder Carlo Petrini welcomed us to the 2010 Terra Madre conference and set the tone for our four days in Turin, Italy. He addressed an audience of 5,000 representatives from 161 countries—small-scale farmers, producers, educators, and observers—who had traveled to Italy to meet with their peers and discuss global issues of food, culture, and justice. We came to take part in the conversation, too, along with two dozen other Vermonters. The experience renewed our appreciation for the value of gathering around a table to break bread and to exchange ideas.

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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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  • Post Oil Solutions at Five Years

    Post Oil Solutions at Five Years

    A strong regional food system—one in which the people of a region are participating in their own food production in both sustaining and sustainable ways—is community based. As much as this system grows food, it grows people, encouraging relationships of collaboration and mutual aid, respect and care. No longer at war with nature and each other, unburdened by that ancient power relationship of us over them, and having given up the self-destructive effort to control life, people actively work with life in a community-based food system. In this way, they practice “relational agriculture,” building the social fabric that leads to a truly sustainable food system for all.

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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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  • New to America,  Old Hands at Agriculture

    New to America, Old Hands at Agriculture

    There’s something exciting happening at the Intervale. “So what else is new?” you might say. “There’s always something interesting happening at the Intervale.” But not every day do you see families from more than four different countries, speaking a mix of different languages, planting lenga-lenga, molukhia, or Asian mustards side by side in a lush valley in Vermont. This summer that will be the scene at the gardens at Ethan Allen Homestead, a field at the Intervale Center in Burlington, and on farmland in Shelburne.

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  • Set the Table with Switchel

    Set the Table with Switchel

    Long a staple in Northeast hayfields as a thirst quencher and restorative, switchel—alternatively called “haymaker’s punch” —was a colonial era proto-Gatorade, a source of both hydration and electrolyte replenishment. Recipes vary, but the most common ingredients were molasses, cider vinegar, and ginger, mixed to taste in a jug of very cold well water. While the concoction could have provided benefit to all manner of laborers and sporting folks, its use was particularly common among the workers of the hayfield and the children who carried the switchel jug to them.

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  • Restoring Vermont’s Heritage

    Restoring Vermont’s Heritage

    “The farming of our fathers was exceedingly simple, content to draw from a virgin soil the supplies of simple wants, instead of aiming itself for their increase. With the impoverishment of the soil, with the forests almost swept off the face of the country and the consequent climate change, with the multiplied wants of society and development of so many new industries, the highest intelligence and energies are required to remodel our system of agriculture so that it may fully meet the demands made upon it.

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  • A Farmhouse Feeds Its Neighbors

    A Farmhouse Feeds Its Neighbors

    When Joseph Kiefer and Martin Kemple founded Food Works in 1987, phrases such as “food security” and “local food system” had yet to come into common parlance. It was ambitious—maybe even radical at the time—to think of using gardens and locally grown food to address the root causes of childhood hunger.

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  • Farming & Feasting with the Robinsons: Winter

    Farming & Feasting with the Robinsons: Winter

    In the not-so-distant past, eating locally was a way of life and a matter of necessity. For four generations, the Robinson family farmed in Ferrisburgh, at the place known today as the Rokeby Museum. The museum’s collection includes correspondence and household records detailing the family’s ways of farming, preserving, and eating. In the last of this four-part series, we take a look at how the Robinsons cooked, ate, and farmed in the late 1800s.

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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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  • 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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Local Agricultural Community Exchange

LACE

Written on

September 01 , 2007

When the Farmers Diner left Barre for Quechee last fall, it left a “local food gap” downtown that is being filled by a new nonprofit initiative called LACE. The name stands for Local Agricultural Community Exchange. It’s a local-oriented grocery store, cafe, and educational center located in the former Homer Fitts Co. department store in downtown Barre. LACE’s founder, Ariel Zevon, has made it her mission to help the Barre community reconnect with local farmers and provide healthy food to the people of central Vermont.  

The bread and butter of LACE is a store which sells Vermont-made natural foods and supplies, as well as local produce. You’ll find such things as a stick of pepperoni from Vermont Smoke & Cure in Barre for $3.59 and a 16-ounce tub of yogurt from the Vermont Milk Company in Hardwick for $1.50, plus a fresh vegetable section stocked with items from Vermont farmers.  (Although all the produce is grown naturally, the vegetables aren’t exclusively organic because LACE didn’t want to exclude growers who are not certified organic.)

Photos and descriptions of local farmers are posted throughout the market, and once a month the community has the opportunity to meet a farmer at the store.  An adjacent restaurant serves healthy, locally grown foods.  Additional space features Vermont-crafted non-food items, such as handmade soaps and cleaners.

“It seems illogical to rely on mega-industrial food suppliers from thousands of miles away when there are family farms all around us struggling to make ends meet,” Zevon said. “By using local resources our community will become more self-reliant; by learning more about the food we eat everyday we will become healthier in mind and body; by channeling our money back into the land that feeds us we will boost the local economy and preserve our rural farming landscape.”

LACE also has a farm-to-community kitchen which residents are able to use to can their own food or turn local crops into value-added products, such as pickles. There are plans for a root cellar and meat storage locker, as well as cooking and agricultural classes. Barre librarian Heather Herzig currently comes to LACE to read food-related stories to children, who then go into the kitchen and prepare the food. It’s called Cook-A-Book story time. 
 
Zevon is the daughter of the late singer and songwriter Warren Zevon and god-daughter to close family friend Jackson Brown, the popular guitarist and singer.  Brown gave a concert in support of LACE on June 13 at the Barre Opera House, raising $60,000. The audience was treated to great music and produce from Vermont farmers. 
 
Zevon said LACE has been well received by the Barre community. And since affordability is often a challenge for stores that sell locally grown produce and Vermont-made goods, Zevon is attempting to serve the whole community by providing leftover food to the needy after lunch and at the end of the day.

“One of my goals is to reach across the gamut from gourmet foodie types to low-income families and to make sure that everyone feels welcome,” she said.

Overcoming Challenges

Necessity is the mother of invention, and Ariel Zevon is a mother whose invention was conceived out of necessity. When Ariel, a resident of Barre, realized that she was pregnant with twin boys, Gus and Max, she began to re-evaluate what she was eating. These two new lives depended upon her choices, and the importance of finding the healthiest food available suddenly became paramount. But Ariel couldn’t find everything that she was looking for in one location, so she set her mind to creating it. Her vision became LACE, a market in Barre that sells only locally-grown, Vermont-produced food items.

Ariel knew there could be difficulties in trying to offer fresh, local foods throughout the year yet still be affordable. But then she discovered that other retailers accomplish this by processing and packaging their own line of foods. (Trader Joe’s is one example.) Ariel realized that, by having a commercial kitchen at LACE, local produce and other perishable items could be prepared and preserved in various ways that could make them available during the winter months. This method would keep the price down, since many of the items being “put by” would have already been paid for, as part of the weekly supply for the market and cafe. Additionally, all preparation and packaging would be handled by LACE, as would the picking up of food from farms. This would also allow Ariel and her husband Ben Powell to get to know farmers and provide a service for them at the same time. Once a truck was found, and utilizing Ben’s ingenuity, they turned it into a vehicle powered by vegetable oil, eliminating significant fuel and environmental costs.

Ariel is a visionary beyond her 31 years but acknowledges that one of the biggest challenges still lies ahead: will the community choose to buy their groceries from LACE instead of the larger stores they’ve become used to shopping in? Ariel is hoping that area residents discover the inherent benefits of buying close to home.

—Barbi Schreiber

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