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Five Reasons to Participate in the Annual Forum Dinner 2024

April 19, 2024

Vermont Fresh Network’s Annual Forum Dinner is back for the 26th year! Mark your calendars for July 21, 2024.

This annual VFN fundraising event is a favorite of locals, visitors, and participants alike, and we get many of the same folks coming back to this event year after year. However, if you’re newer to VFN or haven’t experienced this event before, we thought we’d share some details about how the dinner works, what participants can expect to get out of the event, and why we come together to produce this event year after year. So chefs and specialty food and beverage producers - read on for five reasons to participate in the 2024 Annual Forum Dinner!

Sign up here to host a table at this year's Annual Forum Dinner!


Support a good cause!

The Annual Forum Dinner is VFN’s biggest fundraiser of the year. The ticket sales and donations from this event fund a significant portion of our year-round operations and programs, allowing us to offer networking events, educational programming, promotion and marketing support, and more for businesses in Vermont’s food and farm sector.

It’s also an opportunity for members to showcase Vermont’s vibrant local food system, and the local partnerships that make Vermont so special. When members of the public attend the Forum Dinner, they see producer partnerships in action, and learn about opportunities to eat locally at Vermont restaurants. Attendees can also sip and taste their way through the best of Vermont's specialty food and beverages that use local ingrediants.

Ticket holders come to the event excited to experience Vermont food and drink, and learn about the relationships and partnerships in that bring locally grown and raised products to their plates and glasses.

Connect with other chefs, producers, and folks in Vermont’s ag and culinary sectors.

With 35+ specialty food and beverage producers and 20+ chefs/restaurants participating in the Annual Forum Dinner, there’s opportunity to connect with more than 200 of your peers from Vermont’s food and farm sector at this event. See your farm, producer, and chef partners in person and connect with new buyers and opportunities as we celebrate Vermont’s  vibrant local food system together. We've seen businesses establish ongoing partnerships from connections made at this event.

Plus, all participants engage in a friendly competition to be recognized as the event's Best Bite or Best Sip! (Attendees cast their votes throughout the evening, and winners are announced the following day.) Past year's Best Bite and Best Sip prizes include:

  • Best Bite 2023: Custom chef knife from Narin M. Knives (awarded to Wake Robin for their stuffed shishito peppers)
  • Best Sip 2023: Glass decanter and wine glasses from Simon Pearce (awarded to Mad River Distillers for their Blueberry Mojito)
  • Best Bite 2022: Custom wooden cutting board from J.K. Adams (awarded to Swift House Inn for their venison crostini)
  • Best Sip 2022: Glass decanter from AO Glass (awarded to Kate Wise of Juniper Bar & Restaurant for her 4 Rhubies cocktail)

Showcase your food and products to an audience of food enthusiasts.

The Annual Forum Dinner brings together more than 400 food enthusiasts to enjoy the bites and sips prepared by event participants. Many of these are members of the dining public are local to Vermont, which means your culinary creations are reaching people who have the opportunity to regularly visit your restaurant or find your products in their local stores. Additionally, every year we have attendees from out of state who make this event a destination. Reach visitors from Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and more - who will certainly remember their experiences with you when they’re planning their next trip to our great little state!

Get creative with local ingredients.

Chefs, the Annual Forum Dinner is a great opportunity to think beyond your typical seasonal menus! This event offers an opportunity to be inventive and creative with local ingredients. Previous small bites have included:

  • Shishito pepper stuffed with smoked tamari mushrooms and garnished with pickled radishes and habanero lemongrass honey (Wake Robin, Shelburne - 2023 Best Bite Winner)
  • Pimento cheese on a buttermilk biscuit with housemade pickles (Woodstock Inn, Woodstock)
  • Braised lamb and berry chia pudding on homemade naan with yogurt sauce (Gifford Health Care, Randolph)
  • Crostini topped with house cured and smoked Guanciale, Vermont Creamery chevre, and pickled red onion (Highland Lodge, Greensboro)
  • Vermont blackened pork belly with Cabot clothbound cheddar grits, apple relish, bourbon butter, and crispy leeks (The Essex Resort & Spa, Essex)
  • Venison carpaccio on tombe crostini, horseradish crème fraiche, pickled onions and Swift House microgreens (Swift House Inn, Middlebury - 2022 Best Bite Winner)
  • Basil Agnolotti filled with Maplemont Farm lamb leg, Vermont Creamery chevre, local tomato sauce, shaved sunburst squash & baby zucchini with a fried squash blossom garnish. (Vermont First/UVM Dining, Burlington)

Producers, your samplings tend to be more straightforward - for example, a brewery will typically offer sips of a few of their beers, or a pickle company may offer samples of several different pickle varieties. But if you’d like to try something a little different, this event can be an opportunity to have some fun and showcase your local partnerships and collaborations! Some previous examples of specialty food and beverage samplings include:

  • Kombucha cocktails and mocktails (AquaViTea, Middlebury)
  • Quesadillas featuring Vermont cheese (Vermont Tortilla Company, Shelburne)
  • Goat cheese on shortbread with strawberry cream; aged cheese on cracker with jam or caramel (Vermont Creamery, Websterville)
  • Pesto pasta salad (Trenchers Farmhouse, Lyndonville)
  • Blueberry mojito (Mad River Distillers, Waitsfield - 2023 Best Sip Winner)
  • Event-exclusive macarons crafted with local ingredients (Small Oven Pastries, Shelburne)
  • Jalapeno cheddar bratwurst served with Butterfly Bakery Heady Topper Mustard and seasonal pickled veggies (5th Quarter Butcher Shop, Waitsfield)

If you’re looking for a local partner to collaborate with for the event, let us know and we can help make some connections!

Enjoy lots of great food and drink in a beautiful setting.

The evening is broken into two sections:

  • The cocktail hour from 5:00-6:15pm, during which specialty food and beverage brands showcase their products.
  • The grazing dinner from 6:00-7:45, during which chef participants serve their small bites.

Additionally, specialty food and beverage participants can bring 2 team members, and chef participants can bring up to 4 team members to the event.

This structure means you’re not tied to your table all night, and allows you and your team members to work your table in shifts so everyone has time to experience and enjoy the event! Sample new specialty drinks, connect with potential partners, and enjoy small bites crafted by other Vermont chefs.

The event always ends with an ice cream social as the sun sets over Lake Champlain and the dinner winds down. If you’ve been to the Coach Barn, you know that the location and setting is hard to beat!

The 2024 Annual Forum Dinner is on Sunday, July 21 at the Shelburne Farms Coach Barn. 

Sign up here to showcase your food at this year’s event!

Still have some questions? Email VFN’s membership & events manager Jessie at

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