• 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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  • Bartered, Smuggled, and Bought

    Bartered, Smuggled, and Bought

    When the Upper Valley Localvores took their first 100–mile diet challenge in August 2005, we came upon a serious stumbling block. No local salt! Tomatoes and corn–on–the–cob were abundant, but oh, we needed salt. Fortunately, one of our members had vacationed in Maine and brought back a precious supply of sea salt. It made us wonder what our Upper Valley ancestors had done for salt.

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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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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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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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