VFN Member March Mixer in St. AlbansApril 5, 2022
Over 40 farmers, food producers and chefs gathered at 14th Star Brewing in St. Albans for a lively afternoon of networking. At the first Vermont Fresh Network in person event in over two years, our culinary, farm and food producer partners from Franklin and Grand Isle counties came together to make productive connections and to learn about Vermont's growing Agritourism sector.
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 our favorite comment from a Franklin county farmer and producer, "We came away from this event feeling STOKED! We were able to make some great connections as farmer, producer and buyer! A definite WIN! Thank you for putting this together!"
The event kicked off with a welcome from Ryan Chaffin, VFN Board member and General Manager of 14th Star Brewery who provided the fabulous event space and samples of beer from the taproom (a crowd pleaser!). Christine Porcaro of Healthy Roots Collaborative told audience about technical support available for food and farm businesses, and Lisa Chase of the UVM Extension Tourism Research center shared resources for folks looking to understand their business as part of the growing agritourism sector of the Vermont economy.
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 7th - 14th (registration coming soon!). What's the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets up to? Kristen Wirkkalla told us about resources available to food and farm ventures and encouraged folks to participate in the Vermont building at the Big E.
At Vermont Fresh Network, connecting food producers with chefs is in our DNA! We did a bit of matchmaking and gave each participant at least five 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 (Shrubbly was pouring delish samples!), and farmers connecting with their community they hadn't seen since the pandemic began.
"This is what VFN does best," said Peggy Briggs, Membership and Communications Manager. "We are doing our job when we create the opportunities for our culinary, farm and producer partners to come together to forge productive relationships."
Our post-event survey shows that folks went home having made some solid new partnerships and had a great time planning for the year ahead. "I was unaware of how much VFN has to offer," said one participant. "I am particularly excited to explore the agritourism guides and reading through the resources in my packet!"
A huge thank you to all the food and farm businesses who attended our meetup including Boston Post Diary, Vermont Cranberry Company, Black Flannel Brewing Co, Black River Produce, Edson Hill Inn, Settlement Farm, Champlain College, Happy Bird Poultry Farm, Breezy Acres Farm, Boucher Family Farm, Boissoneault Farm, Health Hero Farm, The Abbey Group, Knobby Knoll Nursery, Choiniere Family Farm, Green Wind Farm, Shrubbly, Santini Catering, The Essex, Pumpkin Village Distributing, and our affiliate sponsors, Farrell Distributing and Sodexo Vermont First.
This event was the first 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.