Vermont Fresh Network has a set of core programs that we manage as part of our listed Member Benefits. Some of these benefits also serve audiences beyond our membership. Those programs include:
- The Annual Forum at Shelburne Farms that celebrates delicious food in a beautiful setting on Lake Champlain. This grazing dinner highlights the work of our members and is our largest fundraiser of the year.
- Our Annual Members Meeting, which offers professional development and networking opportunities for both members and prospective members.
- Fresh Feed newsletter, a biweekly e-newsletter featuring local food events, projects, innovative practices, and interesting ideas from our membership. This is complemented by the Fresh Insider, which focuses on business resources and information.
- Educational dinners and events, which follow a different schedule each year. In 2017, for example, we featured educational boat trips and a local fish dinner at Basin Harbor, as part of the FishOn! Program. In 2018 we are focusing on Vermont wines, with a dinner in the spring and field trips to vineyards in the summer.
Other major projects in 2017 – 2018:
DigInVT.com Upgrades: DigInVT.com is an interactive website that allows users to explore authentic food and farm experiences in Vermont. DigInVT combines individual place listings, suggested itineraries, user-built itineraries, the state’s most comprehensive local food events calendar, a newsfeed with original content and shared stories, mapping functions, and the ability to be a virtual home to special events such as Open Farm Week. DigInVT combines the information of 11 member-based producer organizations and is jointly governed by these groups. It is managed by VFN. In 2017 we received funding for a major upgrade and relaunch of the platform, reflecting both changes in technology and lessons learned during the first 6 years of operating the site. In early 2018 we will roll out the new, improved site.
DigInVT.com is both a website and a foundation for creative collaborative projects. One of the most successful examples is Open Farm Week, which completed its third season in 2017. Open Farm Week began as an idea at the agritourism task force in the Farm to Plate initiative. It supports farmers in hosting on-farm activities during a single week in August, and for many farms is their first foray into visitor activities. DigInVT.com is the virtual home of Open Farm Week, and VFN staff help organize the event, which features over 50 farms and more than 100 events. In 2017 VFN also received a Market Vermont grant to promote anchor food events of the summer to audiences from beyond Vermont, a grant that we matched with donated advertising in the Edibles magazines of the New York metro area.
FishOn! Program: The FishOn! project’s purpose is to create a culture of stewardship for clean water among Vermont’s food professionals. Through engaging in fishing and guided conversation during our fishing trips, we build a hands-on illustration of the link between on-land growing practices and the lake’s water quality. Our goal is to use Lake Champlain’s historic, and potential, role as a local food source as a vehicle to look for solutions for current threats to the lake’s health.
Vermont Wine Marketing Project: In 2017 and 2018 VFN will be increasing sales of Vermont wines in Vermont restaurants using funding from a Specialty Crop Block Grant. This project has multiple components over its two years: baseline research into the current perceived barriers and opportunities, webinars and written materials that begin to address information gaps, a training in how to organize successful peer-to-peer sensory evaluation systems, trade tastings with Vermont wine buyers and distributors in spring, and restaurant staff field trips to local vineyards in the summer of 2018. The baseline research has been conducted and we are in the process of constructing the Vermont wine resource page.
In 2017 VFN also began two pilot programs. One brings chefs to Community and Senior Meal Sites in a consulting capacity to answer site leaders’ questions about managing high volume production. This project responds to the increasing demands on these sites, which are often staffed by volunteers without commercial kitchen experience. Questions range from putting food safety protocols into practice to efficiently scaling up recipe volumes to prioritizing investments in equipment. We also have partnered with the VBSR Marketplace to bring our members into a trading network designed to help local resources go further through a sophisticated bartering system. These projects are in their trial stages and we will be determining next steps in 2018.
Help sustain our programs throughout the year by becoming a Supporting Member.