[Re "Labor Pains," July 9]: While the industry's need for and availability of trained cooks has ebbed and flowed, as Alice Levitt's article suggests, I'd like to let you know about a local job training program which frequently runs just a little under the radar. The program is the Community Kitchen Academy. It is a Vermont Foodbank-originated program operated in partnership with CVOEO in Burlington and CapstoneVT in Barre.
The program is 13 weeks long and offers more than 300 intensive hours of hands-on culinary instruction. The program is a win-win-win: Students are trained for industry jobs, use gleaned and rescued food from businesses and farms that would otherwise go to waste, and serve prepared food through the Burlington and Barre Food Shelves. The program has graduated nearly 150 individuals, and there is some 80 percent job placement. The program is accredited by the Vermont State Colleges Office of External Programs and awards graduates nine college-level academic transfer credits. Several students have continued their formal education with CCV and NECI.
The curriculum focuses on kitchen lab instruction, theory, national sanitation certification and career-development skills. The program is free to financially qualifying candidates and offers a stipend. The CKA program directly answers the issue presented in Alice's article: Where are the trained cooks? In part, right here. It provides professional skills and motivation to those temporarily down on their luck. Seems like it might be an excellent subject for a "Stuck in Vermont." Or, how about having a Seven Days staff meeting catered on-site or at the Food Shelf by the CKA class?
Howard Fisher, PhD
I am personally very touched and moved by ["Cheryl Hanna's Suicide Confirms Mental Health Problems in Vermont," August 6]. I am an ER physician no longer in practice because of recurrent depression and was once a patient on Fletcher Allen's Shepardson unit.
Unfortunately, stigma surrounding mental illness does persist. And, more unfortunately, I felt even more stigmatized on that particular unit primarily because of its design. The nurses' station was closed in with glass up to the ceiling (unlike any other nurse's station) giving me the sense that we patients were something to be feared. My hospital of choice became Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, an open and much more respectful environment.
Suicide is most often a very impulsive act. If there were a "wait period" on the purchase of guns in this state, I'd guess that this and other suicides would not happen. Most survivors of suicide attempts are grateful they did not die. Putting a "pause" between the thought and the behavior saves lives.
This state has a critical, ongoing shortage of inpatient mental health care beds. Even though mental illness takes away vibrant, productive, young lives, we continue to see our state government cut back on mental health care in general. I can't imagine Cheryl having to spend days in a noisy, busy ER suffering with agonizing, tormenting pain waiting and waiting for comfort, quiet and treatment for her debilitating illness.
Cheryl's death should be an exclamation point on this state's ignorance of mental illness and its ramifications. Please wake up, Vermont. The brain is an organ. Treat it as such.
[Re "Space Race," June 4]: On more than one occasion, my husband and I have had to park on one of the upper levels of the Church Street Marketplace garage. This is not a problem for most and, for the most part, not for us, either. However, each time I was limited with access and could not use the stairs due to a knee injury. The first time the elevator was out of service, and my husband had to drive me back down to the main level and then re-park the car. Upon exiting, I waited for him by the exit and asked the attendant there about the elevators. He was nice, apologized for the inconvenience and said that they had just been there the day before to fix them. I suggested that they might put a sign up where you drive in to alert those who would need to get out of the car on the main floor.
About two weeks later, we found ourselves at the same garage. Yet again, the elevator was not working. When we left, I talked to a woman who seemed not to care. When I suggested I was going to call the main office, she responded, "Good luck with that." Again, no sign was up to say this service was out. So I won't bother to use this garage again, even when I can use the stairs! The public needs to know this, more so if you rely on the elevator to get up and down. And just maybe the city needs to correct the issues with the elevators to make sure they are in service.
Congratulations to the Farmhouse Group restaurants — the Farmhouse Tap and Grill, Guild Tavern, Pascolo Ristorante, Guild Fine Meats and El Cortijo — for their many Daysies ["All the Best," July 30]! As a farmer, I would like to express my appreciation for the Farmhouse Group's unerring support of Vermont farms. These restaurants have brought the term "buying local" to a whole new level — purchasing enormous quantities of local produce, meat and cheese from area farmers. Having worked in several restaurants, I know that it is much easier and cheaper to order through a centralized food wholesaler. Yet these chefs take the extra time and spend extra money and order from dozens of different farms on a weekly basis. These restaurants not only produce consistently excellent food, but do so in a way that cycles significant amounts of money back into the local economy while supporting a vibrant and growing farming community.
George van Vlaanderen
[Re "The Rise of Micro-Dairy: A Longtime Dairyman Thinks Big — By Going Small" and "Milk Test," August 6]: I appreciate Seven Days' coverage of raw milk and other food issues, but there are a couple of points I'd like to clear up:First, the author's use of the word "trafficking" in reference to farmers who are selling raw milk perpetuates the idea that raw milk is some kind of radical, under-the-table commodity. The regulations are complex, but it is legal to sell raw milk in Vermont. In fact, generations of Vermonters were and continue to be raised on raw milk. Before milk became an industrial commodity rather than a food, most people in rural areas purchased their milk from their local farmer.
Second, if Vermont truly wants to have viable farms, there has to be room for small, grass-based, raw dairy operations, and the regulations that govern them must be reasonable and fair. As the potential customer quoted in the article said, "If all products were sold that way, I'd never buy anything." What would happen to Vermont's celebrated local food economy if everyone had to visit the farm before purchasing products at a farmers' market? Or, what if all farmers had to waste precious time and fuel running around delivering their products to customers' homes?
If you want to learn more about raw milk as a farm-fresh product or as an agricultural policy issue, please contact Rural Vermont and join Susan and Ryan Hayes for an Open Barn Party at the Farm of Milk and Honey on September 7. Visit ruralvermont.org or call 223-7222 for details.
Stander is executive director of Rural Vermont.
[Re Off Message: "State Won't Ban Recreation on Berlin Pond," August 14]: I could not believe my eyes when I read this from David Mears: "Berlin Pond is a gem in central Vermont, easily accessible and yet remote, so I am pleased to announce that Vermonters will be able to continue to access and enjoy the pond for an appropriate, protected set of uses without threatening Montpelier's drinking water, water that I drink every day."
What on earth is the Agency of Natural Resources thinking? Have you ever heard of anyone going swimming who did not pee in the water? I bet Mears himself has done so on occasion. This is not protection; this is an appalling insult to the people of Montpelier who also drink that water every day. In fact, when I first heard about opening up Montpelier's sole drinking water source — already so highly treated with chlorine that you can smell it when it comes out of the tap — I thought there is no way this idea was going to pass.
And yet ANR and the governor have allowed it to. I absolutely cannot believe they would put the recreational interests of a few selfish people, who have plenty of other places to play, above the public safety needs of thousands.
I am most disappointed in Gov. Peter Shumlin's treatment of Secretary Racine and what appears to be a not-very-well-conceived transition of power within the Agency of Human Services [Off Message: "Racine Ousted as AHS Secretary," August 12]. I know Sec. Racine to be one of the most empathetic, honest and hardworking people in politics. His style is not "yowzer boys" but quietly intelligent — just the kind of guy I want at the top. Hire an actor to glad hand if you think the state would benefit, but don't remove the brain and expect this huge body to function well on life support.
Thanks for the great coverage of new and changing Barre eateries ["Food Start-Ups Bring Fresh Flavors to Barre," August 6]. Delicate Decadence just had a major uplift, and it is the primo patisserie and cake baker for special occasions in Barre. Sorry you missed that in your article. The bakery makes delicious pastries that are served at high-end events, have a nice "bakery cafe" and always a nice selection of freshly made delicacies. Please check them out! They are on Facebook, too. Open five days, with scones, fruit foods and chocolate that melts in your mouth.
[Re "Green Alert: Public Water Systems Watch for Toxic Algae in Lake Champlain," August 13]: In its latest edition, the local Williston weekly trumpeted an upcoming housing development as something to crow about. The Finney Crossing project, though, is sprawl, plain and simple. If anything, Williston is now the sprawl capital of Chittenden County. Sprawl means more polluted storm runoff, less native wildlife, and increasingly awful water quality. More algae blooms, too.
We all live in a watershed, notably that of Lake Champlain. Too bad local leaders fail to grasp that reality and what it portends.
Alan C Gregory
Something not mentioned in this article ["Green Alert: Public Water Systems Watch for Toxic Algae in Lake Champlain," August 13] is the proposed fracked gas pipeline project that terminates in Ticonderoga, N.Y., at the International Paper plant. Hydrogeologists have confirmed that the trench the pipeline is installed in becomes a "preferential corridor" for water (and contaminants) to travel, because the soil will be less compact than the undisturbed soil, despite the "best mitigation practices" that are used during construction. So here will be a new mainline for the phosphorous to find its way to the lake. The impact on runoff from such a project has not been studied.
Why wait to see if there will be a problem until after the problem exists? Yeah, I know... money, that's why.