Notes from the VFN BoardMay 19, 2020
Connection, communication, and maintaining relationships are key during this time. We all may be tired of hearing it, but we're stronger together - that's why we have a network. Our board represents our diverse membership. Here are some updates from a few members of the VFN Board.
Lyndon Virkler, Chef Instructor Emeritus at the New England Culinary Institute notes that “twenty-four years ago, my students and I had the honor of serving a luncheon by the side of NECI’s vegetable garden celebrating the launch of the Vermont Fresh Network. We could have never imagined the growth of the network or its successful programs like Open Farm Week, the Annual Forum Dinner, the Fresh Feed, and DigInVT. Now, in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, our mission is more important than ever. As the shutdown has revealed weak links in the food supply chain, our mission of relocalizing the food system, and fortifying the connections between food producers, chefs, and consumers is critical. The Vermont Fresh Network is committed to working with our members to develop and share creative ideas to grow out of this crisis and strengthen our Vermont food system.”
Doug Paine, VFN board president, shares that “this crisis has brought into focus some weaknesses in our food supply chain. It has made the farmer's direct connection to their communities so much more important. While we are seeing shortages in national grocery stores for all sorts of products, for the most part, these products have remained available locally. VFN has always worked to strengthen those connections and will continue to do so. We understand that this is an unprecedented challenge to everyone, but it has hit our restaurant community especially hard, leaving many in a dire situation. Currently, we are working on a public fundraising plan to eliminate dues for restaurants and anyone hit hard by Covid-19. Also, we are hoping to gather resources and ideas to give back to the chefs who have worked tirelessly over the years to help VFN through some tough situations. All of this won't be easy as the future of our biggest revenue source, the 2020 Annual Forum, is in question, but we will persevere and help the community in any way we are able.” Doug is the Executive Chef of Westport Hospitality, Hotel Vermont, Juniper Bar and Restaurant, Bleu Northeast Seafood.
Like all of our members, our individual board members have been busy during the last couple months in this pandemic. They have been partnering, collaborating, organizing, bringing projects to fruition, promoting, planting, shifting purchasing, and more to benefit their communities and industries.
Several board members have been involved with the Vermont Hospitality Coalition, a statewide group of independent restaurant operators formed in response to the covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis, and wanted to share the following with our membership: “At this time we are 150+ restaurants and growing. Our coalition is designed to bring us together to provide support and advocacy for our industry in navigating these uncertain times. Our common theme is a shared concern for each other. As hospitality professionals, we are a creative community, a generous community, a resilient community, and we are in this together. Please see our public petition on change.org, Save Vermont Restaurants.”
Ryan Chaffin, Vermont Fresh Network board member and Director of Marketing & Business Development at Farrell Distributing, recently shared with us the details of their amazing partnership with Citizen Cider, Aqua ViTea, and Caledonia Spirits to produce hand sanitizer. Please read about it on our website and watch the video: A Spirited Response.
Lastly, there are so many resources out there, but board members wanted to be sure you knew about listing your business on www.lovevermont.org. It is free, and once it is populated, will be robustly promoted to thousands of consumers both in and out of Vermont.