SHELBURNE -- Eat It To Save It was the theme of the Vermont Fresh Network Forum held on Sunday at Shelburne Farms Coach Barn. Author Gary Paul Nabhan was the keynote speaker and he challenged his capacity audience of food producers, chefs and foodies to pay careful attention to where their food is coming from.
A founder of the countrys first eco-gastronomic conservation project, RAFT (Renewing Americas Food Traditions, he is commited to cataloging Americas unique and authentic foods, documenting those that have fallen out of use, and restoring and revitalizing as many as possible.
As one way of raising awareness of the importance of food that has a real connection to its place, Nabhan and RAFT had organized the celebration of Great American Picnics across the country and the VFN event was one of six RAFT picnics across the country. Nabhan predicted that this years six historic moments would grow to 60 picnics next year and 600 the following year.
And everyone will say that the first picnic was held on the shores of Lake Champlain and everyone had a helluva good time, he said.
He said that the new alliances between groups as diverse as land conservationists, hunting and fishing conservationists, breed conservationists and seed conservations were helping to bring back traditional meats, poultry, seeds and fruits.
He paid tribute to partnerships such as those fostered by the Vermont Fresh Network with its mission of building innovative partnerships among farmers, chefs and consumers to strengthen Vermonts agriculture.
Vermont Fresh Network is the model for Canyon Country Fresh Network which we helped to establish in the southwest, he said. It has been responsible for increasing the income from local produce from $20,000 to close to a million in seven years.
Following the keynote speech, the crowd surged into the courtyard of the Coach Barn where chefs from VFN member restaurants had prepared food suitable for a grazing audience. In many cases the menu items included crops, breeds and foraged ingredients that are traditional to the culinary heritage of Vermont, described as RAFT ingredients, such as Iroquois Flint Corn, Heirloom Tomatoes, Cipollini Onions and Blood Bull Beet Greens.
The dinner provides an opportunity for people interested in food production and preparation to sample fresh, local and seasonal ingredients prepared by Vermonts creative chef and farm partners, but it is also a chance for many producers, chefs and consumers to meet, discuss future plans, and socialize.