VFN Member May Mixer in Middlebury
Over 60 farmers, food producers and chefs gathered at American Flatbread, Middlebury Hearth on May 16, 2022. Our culinary, farm and food producer partners from Addison and Chittenden counties came together to make productive connections and to learn about Vermont's growing Agritourism sector at one of our first in-person events of the year. Not even a Spring hail storm deterred us!
Farmers found new markets for their products through connections with chefs and distributors; chefs discovered new sources of meat, produce, dairy and distributors provided the important delivery system for producers to get their products across Vermont. VFN had some great feedback from participants, including one of our favorite comments, “Great to meet others, learn about the challenges and successes and spread the word about Vermont businesses!”
The event kicked off with a welcome from Tara Pareira, VFN Executive Director, who told the gathering about Vermont Fresh Network membership and upcoming events like the VFN Annual Forum at Shelburne Farms on July 31. Lindsey Berk, Executive Director of ACORN who co-sponsored the event, outlined plans for an Addison County food hub and on-line marketplace – both game changers for connecting local farms with chefs and other buyers.
Before we got busy networking, Sara DeFilippi of the Vermont Department of Tourism talked about their partnership with DigInVT to promote food and farm businesses through collaborative efforts including the upcoming Open Farm Week, August 7 - 14. Kristen Wirkkala of the Vermont Department of Agriculture, Food & Markets told us about resources available to food and farm ventures and encouraged folks to participate in the Vermont building at the Big E. And Lisa Chase of the UVM Extension Department of Tourism research gave the audience an introduction to the resources available for farm stays and other Agritourism ventures. She also told the gathering about the upcoming International Workshop on Agritourism in Burlington August 30 – Sept 1.
The Vermont Fresh Network team did a bit of matchmaking and gave each participant at least four people to meet at the mixer based on registration questions about what they were looking for to grow their businesses. Some folks wanted to learn more about on-farm events, some were looking for new sources of beef or produce, while others were in search of a distributor to help get their products to other counties across the state. We saw chefs planning purchases with farmers, distributors learning about new products, and farmers connecting with their community they hadn't seen since the pandemic began.
“It was great to see our partners connecting in person to plan for the upcoming season,” said Tara Pareira, VFN Executive Director, “It’s our mission to help make those connections.” Our post-event survey shows that folks went home having made some solid new partnerships and we loved hearing positive comments on why the event was valuable like, “a lot of potentional connections and future resources” and “great connections on many levels, potential customers and potential partners."
Thank you to all the food and farm businesses who attended our meetup including Werner Tree Farm, The Middlebury Inn, Loeffler Homestead, Eagle’s Flight Farm, Brookfield Bees, The Inn at Roundbarn Farm, Shrubbly, SILO Distillery, Common Roots, Bar Antidote, NOFA-VT, MoSe Farm, lu lu Ice Cream, Artesano Mead, Fairytale Farm, Grateful Greens, Cornwall Orchards Bed & Breakfast, LegEnd Farm, Champlain Valley Hops, Blue Ledge Farm, Blake Hill Preserves, and Mad River Distillery.
This event was the second of four Chef/Farmer/Food Producer meetups planned for 2022 as part of Vermont Fresh Network's effort to strengthen Vermont's culinary and agricultural tourism sector through partnership and collaboration. This meetup was co-hosted with Healthy Roots Collaborative who worked with VFN and service providers from the Vermont Department of Tourism, The Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets, and the UVM Extension Agritourism Research Center to provide technical assistance and guidance connecting with statewide plans to develop Vermont's Agritourism sector.
Funding for this event is made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM190100XXXXG100 awarded to the Vermont Fresh Network.