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Farms and Agriculture

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Land O'Lakes Buys Vermont Creamery: 10 Questions for Allison Hooper

Posted By on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 9:06 PM

Cultured butter from Vermont Creamery - COURTESY OF VERMONT CREAMERY
  • Courtesy of Vermont Creamery
  • Cultured butter from Vermont Creamery
On Wednesday afternoon, March 29, news circulated through the Vermont fooderati that Vermont Creamery had been sold to Minnesota cheese-and-butter giant Land O'Lakes for an undisclosed sum (yes, we asked how much, to no avail).

Allison Hooper and Bob Reese cofounded Vermont Butter & Cheese Company from a barn in Brookfield in 1984. Thirty-three years later the business, which changed its name to Vermont Creamery in 2013, brings in tens of millions of dollars annually and employs about 100 Vermonters full time.

While representatives from the creamery and from Land O'Lakes have been forthcoming since news of the sale broke yesterday, many Vermonters were left wondering what it would all mean. Would the company stay in Vermont? What would happen to current employees, and to the farmers from whom the creamery buys milk? Would the chèvre, cultured butter and soft-ripened cheeses be different now?

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

New Location, Same Great Vibe at the Burlington Winter Farmers Market

Posted By on Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 3:58 PM

Burllington Farmers Market purchases - SUZANNE PODHAIZER
  • Suzanne Podhaizer
  • Burllington Farmers Market purchases
When I learned that the Burlington Winter Farmers Market would be moving from the condemned Memorial Auditorium in downtown Burlington to the University of Vermont's Dudley H. Davis Center, I was skeptical that the new location would have the right vibe. My first visit to the market in its new location proved me wrong.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Reinhart Foodservice to Purchase Black River Produce

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 1:30 PM

Black River Produce founders Steve Birge and Mark Curran with President Sean Buchanan - COURTESY OF OLIVER PARINI
  • Courtesy of Oliver Parini
  • Black River Produce founders Steve Birge and Mark Curran with President Sean Buchanan
 In the words of company president Sean Buchanan, Springfield's Black River Produce "started with a handful of cash and a dream." The food distributor was founded  38 years ago by Steve Birge and Mark Curran, who described themselves as "ski bums." 

Since then, BRP has operated as an independent entity — until now. On October 24, the company will be purchased by Illinois- and Wisconsin-based Reinhart Foodservice, the fourth largest food-service distributor in the country. Staff was informed of the change on Friday. 

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

New Americans Join in Shelburne Grape Harvest

Posted By on Sat, Sep 24, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Duk Luitel harvesting grapes - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • Duk Luitel harvesting grapes
"I love summer jobs," Duk Luitel told me as she paused from clipping clusters of grapes on the vines surrounding Shelburne Vineyard. It feels good to be working outdoors, she explained. After all, the 41-year-old Winooski resident was a farmer in her native Bhutan.

Luitel is among a group of about 30 people, most of them from the Bhutanese community, who have been picking grapes at the vineyard since the harvest season started earlier this month. A smaller number of Congolese are also pitching in at the vineyard on Route 7.

For the past three years, co-owner Kenneth Albert has depended on his personal connection with a Bhutanese individual to recruit grape pickers from that community. "They are more reliable," he said. "Local residents [are] doing it as more of a recreation."

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Chef, Farmer, Eater: More Talk With Food Writer Ruth Reichl

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2016 at 8:00 PM

Ruth Reichl co-teaching at Sterling College - COURTESY OF BEANA BERN
  • Courtesy of Beana Bern
  • Ruth Reichl co-teaching at Sterling College

This week’s issue of Seven Days features an interview with renowned food writer Ruth Reichl. Last week, I met Reichl at Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, where she spent three days co-teaching a summer course called “Food Writing From the Farm” at the college’s School of the New American Farmstead.

There wasn’t enough space to run the entire interview in print. Here are extended questions and answers from our front-porch conversation on the Sterling College campus:

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Alice Eats: Farm Cart at Shelburne Farms

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 12:59 PM

1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne, 985-8686

My dining companion
  • My dining companion

Sometimes, you feel like brunch at Shelburne Farms. But that craving can't be satisfied last-minute — reservations are necessary well in advance. And not all of us want to pay $14 for a veggie hash, anyway.


Luckily, there's a lower-cost but equally ultra-local option. In front of the Farm Barn, a food-truck-style set-up known as the Farm Cart offers a menu of sandwiches, salads and soup. And since seating is at gnarled wood picnic tables in an open field, you may be joined for lunch by a chicken or two, as I was. 

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Welch Springs to Cheesemakers' Defense

Posted By on Tue, Jun 10, 2014 at 11:19 PM

Cabot clothbound cheese aging in Vermont on wooden boards. - FLICKR/SISTERBEER

On Saturday, Wisconsin's Cheese Underground blog broke news that the FDA had reinterpreted a food safety law, in effect outlawing the centuries-old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards.

The post unleashed a fury in the nation's artisan cheese community, and food bloggers responded in kind, posting articles with gloom-and-doom headlines such as "FDA May Destroy American Artisan Cheese Industry" (Forbes) and "The FDA’s Misguided War on Bacteria That Make Cheese Taste Good" (Slate).  

If the policy sticks, it could have dire consequences for Vermont's artisan cheese industry, costing small, family-run businesses millions, should they be required to replace wooden aging shelving with stainless steel or another material. 

But Vermont Congressman Peter Welch says in a phone interview with Seven Days that he plans to put the kibosh on the issue before it impacts local creameries. "We've got to stop this dead in its tracks," he says. "The cheesemakers are rightfully alarmed, and the FDA has issued a statement that creates [a lot of] ambiguity and uncertainty. There's just no reason to ban — or to suggest the possibility of banning — wood boards on which to age cheese." 

Welch calls the policy "a catastrophic situation in the making ... The reason I say catastrophic is, if you make our artisan cheesemakers get rid of their wood and replace it with stainless steel, [it'll be] enormously expensive." The congressman also foresees consequences extending far beyond the borders of our little state: "This is the mother of all trade wars with Europe. Their cheesemakers use wood [for aging], and they would be prohibited from exporting that cheese to the U.S.,  and then obviously that would create a retaliatory response. So this is the mother of all dumb ideas, and we've gotta stop it." 

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Friday, May 2, 2014

An April Foodie Scrapbook

Posted By on Fri, May 2, 2014 at 7:20 AM

With the arrival of May, I'm expecting to see a fresh start here at the Seven Days food desk. Between planning Vermont Restaurant Week, putting out the annual 7 Nights magazine and losing my longtime partner in crime, Corin Hirsch, I have never been busier than I was in April. 

In fact, I was so busy that I didn't find the time to blog about two major events that catalyzed Vermont foodies last month. On April 3 and 4, Chez Panisse owner and Slow Food pioneer Alice Waters visited Vermont from California. Two weeks later, a pair of "Chopped" champions showed off their Food Network-tested skills in a culinary battle in Montpelier.

As we venture into May and look forward to summer, I want to share some spring memories.

Onion confit, cabbage and cheddar panade in the style of Zuni Café's Judy Rodgers. Served with root veggie slaw and the season's first spring greens
  • Onion confit, cabbage and cheddar panade in the style of Zuni Café's Judy Rodgers. Served with root veggie slaw and the season's first spring greens

As exciting as it was to meet Waters, lunch at Burlington's Intervale Center was also an enjoyable state of the union for local foodies to meet, greet and realize how far we've come.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Three Penny Taproom Debuts All-American New Menu

Posted By on Tue, Apr 1, 2014 at 2:11 PM

The Hasslehoff Burger is best enjoyed shirtless.
  • The Hasslehoff Burger is best enjoyed shirtless.
Hungry for a Hasselhoff Burger? The $34 patty is cooked well done and topped with ketchup, then served on the bathroom floor. "The celebrity price is in line with the celebrity experience," says a representative for Montpelier's Three Penny Taproom, which debuted a new spring menu today.

The source told Seven Days that the new menu was designed to keepThree Penny in line with popular New York restaurants, such as Guy Fieri's landmark Guy's Kitchen & Bar.

Starting today, Three Penny guests will be welcomed to "Flavor Town" with a new take on the cheese plate. Kraft Singles, Cheetos or Easy Cheese are each available for $9. Larger parties may want to indulge in all three for $15, served with a side of ketchup.

Waist watchers can stick to the salad menu. The Jell-O salad is composed of lime gelatin, canned pineapple and artisanal marshmallows, while the taco salad features Doritos and jarred salsa.

Since Three Penny is ultimately a beer destination, snacks and sides are an important addition to a can of Schlitz or Olde English 800. Irish Nachos make the most of our Blarney-kissin' cousins' cuisine with boiled waffle fries, Kilkenny jalapeños and a Guinness drizzle. An original dish, Pigs in a Biskit, features pigs-in-a-blanket, crusted with Chicken in a Biskit crackers.

One sweet snack is appropriate as a starter, side or dessert. A bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch will run you $6. Add milk for just $17 more.

We look forward to trying Three Penny's hip new fare soon, with or without a shirt.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chewing the (Local, Organic) Fat With Alice Waters

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 12:10 PM

  • Gilles Mingasson
  • Alice Waters
Alice Waters will be visiting Vermont early next month. She'll speak at Sterling College's Dunbar Hall on April 3 at 6:30 p.m. But she isn't just a celebrity chef, restaurateur and Slow Food pioneer passing through on a press tour. Waters has New England connections: Her daughter, Fanny, attended the Mountain School in Vershire, and Waters herself has an honorary degree from Dartmouth College. 

Most importantly, she has friends in Vermont. The first leg of her tour will be under the guidance of famous food writer and sometime Northeast Kingdom resident Marian Burros. After her visit to Sterling, Waters will tour Burlington's Intervale Center with its community relations manager, Joyce Cellars.

Spearheading such events has been Cellars' job when other luminaries, such as Mark Bittman, came to town. But this visit will be special. According to Waters, "[Cellars] came to work at Chez Panisse when she was very young. She was my right arm."

Waters is not only a restaurant luminary but an activist: Her Edible Schoolyard Program has gained traction in bringing real food to K-12 schools, and she hopes to see the movement expand to schools and hospitals across the country. 

In anticipation of her whirlwind tour, we checked in with Waters about Vermont cuisine, food ethics and eating shoes.

SEVEN DAYS: What brings you to Vermont?
ALICE WATERS: I think there are a lot of things that bring me to Vermont. Sterling is certainly a place that I’ve heard about for a long time from Marian Burros. She just wants me to see the way the curriculum works, the way food is served, and I’m very, very interested in that, of course. 

I also have a very, very good friend, Joyce Cellars at the Intervale. She is connected with Slow Food Vermont, and they're very excited to have me come and sign books and talk the talk.

I guess I always have these big visions of what can happen there. I’ve thought for a very long time that Vermont is the state that is really ready for edible education in the public schools — to officially get [to a point] to feed all children real food for school lunch would be an irresistible model for this country. 

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