Vermont has a strong farming tradition that continues today. The majority of Vermont’s farms are family-owned and operated, many of which have been passed down through generations. Dairy is the top agricultural product in Vermont, but chickens, eggs, meat and hay are also significant. Vermonters have a huge respect for the land… after all, it’s the land that has supported their families since before Vermont was a state.
Life in Vermont didn’t change much over generations until the building of the interstate. With that came growth, an influx of visitors, and new challenges. Vermonters relied on their traditional common sense and New England determination to find a way to make economic and environmental interests coincide. Within the farming community, adoption of practices to preserve the land, produce high-quality products, and continue the traditions of their forbearers was a natural. It’s not unusual to find organic farms and animal products raised without antibiotics predominating the farm culture.
At the same time, a movement among chefs was taking hold to use only the freshest, natural ingredients in their cooking. The Vermont Fresh Network (VFN) was established as a non-profit in 1996 to help farmers and chefs build relationships beneficial to each. Their website claims, “The Vermont Fresh Network is dedicated to a flourishing local food system for the benefit of our environment, our communities, our health, and overall strength of the rural economy.” Through events, education programs, newsletters, and associated website, DigInVT.com (for agricultural and culinary tourism), VFN continues to expand their network to the benefit of chefs, farmers, food artisans, and diners throughout the state. These relationships have helped Vermont restaurants and chefs wholeheartedly adopt the locavore movement by purchasing directly from local farmers, cheese makers, wineries, breweries, and so on.
DigInVT.com offers a number of ways for consumers to find out more about farming traditions in Vermont. Attend an event and talk to the food producer. Visit a farm – a list of participating farms is included on the website. Make it a day trip or book a stay and help with the chores. There is also a section called “Explore a Trail” with themed adventures for visitors to pursue. For example, The Vermont Cheese Trail or the Vermont Brewery Challenge. By exploring Vermont farm traditions as a visitor the loop is closed — from farm to chef to diner and farm tourist and back to farm.
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