Food Producers Showcased At ‘Flavors of the Valley’

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Front Page / Apr. 22, 2010 1:49pm EDT

By Sandy Vondrasek

Christopher Piana of Barnard's Fable Farm explains the steps involved in buying a share of the farm's produce to a Flavors-of-the-Valley visitor, Tuesday in Hartford. The annual showcase of local food producers, sponsored by Vital Communities, attracted more than 1000 visitors. (Herald /Sandy Vondrasek)  Normal  Sandy  1Christopher Piana of Barnard's Fable Farm explains the steps involved in buying a share of the farm's produce to a Flavors-of-the-Valley visitor, Tuesday in Hartford. The annual showcase of local food producers, sponsored by Vital Communities, attracted more than 1000 visitors. (Herald /Sandy Vondrasek) Normal Sandy 1

“Flavors of the Valley,” an annual food expo hosted by Vital Communities, is like a big box of chocolates, except better for you.

Oh, and probably more fun. And definitely more educational.

The 60 or so local food producers at the ninth annual event Tuesday afternoon at Hartford High School, set out a seemingly endless supply of samples for the estimated 1200 folks who stopped by.

How about a taste of Bonne Bouche, an ash-ripened goat cheese from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery in Websterville, or Celtic elk chili with cornbread, served up in tiny, biodegradable “poplar boats” by the executive chef of Home Hill Inn in Plainfield, N.H.?

Or, a sample of some of the dozens or pickles and jellies made by Verne and Judy DuClos of Braintree, or a sliver of “boiled cider” pastries cooked up by Woods’ Cider Mill in Springfield? Fresh-baked bread? Locally produced ice cream?

Conversation and information were as plentiful as the food at Tuesday’s event.

Christopher Piana of Barnard’s Fable Farm talked to folks about the benefits of buying a food “share” in the CSA—community supported agriculture—he runs with brother Jon. A Fable Farm share, he explained to a visitor, yields more than a weekly bag full of fresh produce. Pick-up-day specials include live music, fresh pizza from the farm’s “earth oven” and other events.

Allison Wolf of Vermont Butter & Cheese handed out recipe cards in addition to cheese samples.

“This is a great way to continue to keep our products in the thoughts and minds of the Upper Valley,” she said.

Not every vendor at Tuesday’s expo was a food producer.

A representative from the Co-op Food Stores shared samples and information about gluten-free foods; several book and magazine publishers were on hand; and folks manning the “waste reduction promotion” table had handouts with “green household cleaning recipes,” and other tips.

Andy and Debra Williams, who run Ohana Family Camps at Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee, demonstrated how to make fruit leather—a popular camp activity—and handed out brochures for the many camps run by the parent organization, The Aloha Foundation.

Helping Consumers

“The whole point (of the event) is to help people who want to eat local foods and the producers who grow or create them,” said Len Cadwallader, Vital Communities executive director.

The annual food expo isn’t the only way the non-profit Vital Communities supports local food production.

Stacks of the organization’s seventh annual “Valley Food & Farm Guide,” fresh off the press, were available at Tuesday’s expo, and will be distributed in dozens of towns on either side of the Connecticut River.

The free, 32-page publication is an encyclopedia of local food options. There are lists of area CSAs and farmers markets, a long directory of area farms and food-related businesses in the area, and more.

Bushrod and Cynthia Powers of Royalton, who make a point of checking out Flavors of the Valley each year, spent some of their time visiting with fellow Royaltonian, Jinny Cleland of Four Springs Farm, at her farm’s display.

Flavors of the Valley, Bushrod said, “is a really wonderful example of what the agricultural community is doing in the Upper Valley.”

According to Cadwallader, the agricultural community in the Upper Valley is doing very well, indeed.

As an example, he pointed to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicating that agricultural revenues for Windsor County in Vermont and Grafton County, N.H., have “grown faster —dramatically faster—than their respective state’s rates of increase.”

Vital Communities:

Food and Much More

Vital Communities is, as its name suggests, is all about creating good places to work and live, and it’s about much more than locally-produced food.

The nonprofit, based in White River Junction, has a number of action-oriented programs that aim to help citizens “to be smarter about what our local resources are, and to build the social capital” needed to keep that network of local resources strong, according to Cadwallader.

Vital Communities initiatives include

• Valley Food and Farm, sponsors of Flavors of the Valley, the Food & Farm Guide, and other activities.

•Valley Quest, an award-winning, education program that uses treasure hunts to celebrate community, natural history, cultural sites, stories, and special places.

• Local First Alliance, which encourages area residents, businesses and organizations to patronize locally-owned businesses.

Local businesses recirculate their profits back into the community, Cadwallader pointed out, instead of sending them off to corporate headquarters or shareholders who are “who knows where.”

• The Upper Valley Transportation Management Assoc., which, according to Cadwallader helps people “get to and from work without leaving your paycheck at the gas pump.”

•Vital Communities also has programs “to empower Upper Valley leaders to make a difference in their community,” and “to increase the supply of diverse workforce housing in our region.”

For more information on all these programs, see vitalcommunities.org.


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