Board of Directors
Jed is Owner and President of The Farmhouse Group family of award winning restaurants including The Farmhouse Tap & Grill, El Cortijo Taqueria, Guild Tavern, Pascolo Ristorante, and Farmhouse Group Events. A seventh generation Vermonter, Jed studied hotel and restaurant management at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. After college graduation, Jed lived in New York City for a number of years working at acclaimed restaurants Le Cirque, Daniel, and Union Square Cafe. Jed lives with his wife and daughters in Essex, VT.
Doug Paine grew up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. After working many years in kitchens around the Stowe/Waterbury area he moved to Chittenden County with his family shortly before opening Hotel Vermont. He has forged great relationships with many farmers and food producers and is committed to serving only the best ingredients in true Vermont Style. As the Executive Chef at Hotel Vermont and Bleu Northeast Seafood, he is helping to create a fresh and vibrant dining scene in downtown Burlington. Doug is also an active member of Slow Food and NOFA helping to raise awareness of social issues involving the food community.
Ryan Chaffin joined Farrell Distributing in 2013 as Director of Marketing after 11 years working for the Long Trail Brewing Company in numerous roles including State Manager for the brands under the company portfolio. At Farrell Distributing, he works directly with brand partners across all segments, helping tell their stories while traveling across the state engaging retailers and consumers. His work includes executing national marketing campaigns along with much more local efforts. The "Made in Vermont" portfolio (39 suppliers strong) reinforces a commitment to smaller, local partners. Ryan is a Champlain College graduate and proud to bring years of experience in business and brand management, content management, digital and social media marketing, major event and field marketing, partnership alignment, and community outreach experience. He lives with his wife, daughter, and dogs in Chittenden County.
Annie Rowell comes her role as Vermont First Coordinator for Sodexo after working for more than three years as a Program Manager at the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, Vermont. Her work in Hardwick focused on creating new markets for Vermont farms by creating a line of local fresh cut and frozen vegetable products, focusing specifically on Vermont and regional wholesale markets. She graduated from Middlebury College in 2011, majoring in Political Science. In addition to her role at Sodexo, Annie is a member of the Craftsbury Town Planning Commission, Craftsbury Land Use Task Force, Secretary of the Craftsbury Village Improvement Society, Stage Manager for the Craftsbury Chamber Players, and cellist in the Porter Brook String Trio. She also has her Vermont Real Estate license with Peter D. Watson Agency, based in northeast Vermont.
Joe Buley of Screamin’ Ridge Farm, Inc and Joe’s Kitchen attended the University of Texas Austin and then L’Ecole Superier du Cuisine Francaise in Paris France for three years. While there he interned at Michelin Starred Restaurants before returning to New York City and working at the River Café. He has worked for the Ritz Carlton and several free standing restaurants in San Francisco and Austin,Texas. Joe taught at the New England Culinary Institute for 9 years and started his vegetable farm in East Montpelier. Joe’s Kitchen came into existence as a way to make healthy local food with his farm's vegetables. It has since grown to a point that he now sources from many other Vermont farmers and producers. Joe was one of the early VFN Board members and returned to the Board in 2016.
Jake was born and raised in southern Vermont in Sunderland. After graduating from Fordham University, he spent time doing environmental education for the Vermont Institute of Natural Science and as a field technician in British Columbia working on a land management plan for the Taku Tlingit First Nation before returning to graduate school at Bard College in Environmental Policy. He spent a year with the Vermont Natural Resources Council working with town energy committees before joining the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund where he’s been ever since, first as Farm to Plate Network Assistant and now as Farm to Plate Program Director.
Alison Kosakowski Conant
Alison is a branding and communications consultant, based in Richmond. A graduate of Bryn Mawr College, she began her career in advertising in New York City, where she developed brand strategies for clients including Hasbro Toys, Playtex, and Sharp Electronics. From there, she transitioned to corporate communications, and was responsible for managing the North American communications strategy for Maersk, the world's largest container shipping company. In 2009, when the Maersk Alabama was hijacked by pirates, Alison rushed to Vermont to manage the media relations surrounding the capture of Captain Richard Phillips. Following Phillips' rescue, she served as the hero captain’s business and media manager, helping to establish book, movie, and speaking opportunities for Phillips. During that time, she fell in love with Vermont (and a local farmer), quit her corporate job, and relocated to the Green Mountain State, permanently. From 2011-2017, she served as the Director of Communications and Policy for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. She now resides with the farmer (her husband) and their daughter at Conant’s Riverside Farms in Richmond, a seventh-generation produce and dairy farm.
John has been the Executive Director of the Lamoille Economic Development Corporation since March 2010. Prior to that he was the Director of the Incubator Without Walls program at Lyndon State College and was briefly the President of Northern Community Management Corp. He served as the Area Business Advisor for the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont as well as for Lamoille County for the VtSBDC for two years. John was an executive for the New England Culinary Institute for five years after moving to Vermont with his family in July 2000. John served on the Vermont Agricultural and Forestry Products Development Board for two years and is currently the Co-chair of the Farm to Plate Education and Workforce Development Working Group as well as serving on the Consumer Education and Marketing Working Group. He has served for several years on various local, regional and statewide boards including Salvation Farms, the Buffalo Mountain Co-op, the Town of Hardwick DRB, the Vermont Early Childhood Business Council and many others.
Susan is a Chef, CIA grad, and former core faculty member and Chef-Instructor at the New England Culinary Institute. She has worked for King Arthur Flour since 2002, she has written and tested recipes, written and edited King Arthur cookbooks and magazines, driven their Bake Truck, and done demonstrations, television and radio appearances to advance the causes of baking and employee-ownership. She is currently the food editor of Sift magazine. From 2007 to 2014 she was a member of the Vermont Employee-Ownership Center’s board of directors, serving as Vice President during 2014. She is also the author and photographer of the culinary blog The Well-Plated Life. In her previous life she wrote TV commercials for the Lonely Maytag Repairman, among others, at Leo Burnett Chicago.
Chef Lyndon Virkler is a Senior Core Faculty member at New England Culinary Institute and co-author with Darryl Benjamin of Farm to Table, The Essential Guide to Food Systems for Students, Professionals, and Consumers (Chelsea Green October 2016). Lyndon holds a Master’s Degree in Adult and Higher Education from Vermont College of Union Institute and University (2007), a B.A. in American Literature from Middlebury College (1975), and an Associates of Occupational Science from The Culinary Institute of America (1977). Lyndon worked in fine dining restaurants in Washington D.C. for three years and was chef de cuisine of Sam Rupert’s Restaurant in Warren, VT, for eight years. Since joining NECI in 1988, Chef Virkler has been active in a number of issues related to food and agriculture and has been involved in incorporating the sustainable food systems component into New England Culinary Institute’s curriculum. He is a founding member of the Vermont Fresh Network and the Vermont chapter of Chefs Collaborative. He is an executive member of the Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium. Lyndon lives in Waitsfield with his wife and has two daughters and two grandchildren.
Helen has worked on rural economic development issues in Vermont since 2004. She previously directed programs in the creative economy and in rural broadband expansion for the Vermont Council on Rural Development, and managed market development projects as the Food Policy Administrator at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. Helen received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University, an MSc in Community Development and Applied Economics from UVM, and an MFA in creative nonfiction from Lesley University. Helen is also the publisher-editor of Vermont's Local Banquet, for which she was a contributing writer before taking the helm in 2018 to relaunch the magazine on a digital platform. She would like to pre-emptively dispute anyone’s claim that they are a faster Nordic skier than she is (although she has recently been distracted by Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a sport which is immune to the fickle weather). Helen is originally from Newbury, VT.