The Mad River Valley (MRV) – once primarily an agricultural community – is rediscovering its agricultural roots. Less than 10 years ago, the MRV Localvore organization challenged residents to eat locally. They provided community members with tools, information, food sources and recipes. Local restaurants sprinkled locally sourced options on their menu. Since that time, the local food scene has blossomed. A vibrant Farmers’ Market, multiple Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) options, and locally grown meats, fruits, herbs and vegetables are used throughout The Valley’s restaurant and food service businesses. But what’s next?
These questions have been explored over the last several months by food producers, retailers and residents as part of The Valley’s Economic Vitality Series organized through collaboration between the Mad River Valley Planning District and the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The food economy was recognized in many of the workshops as one of the major assets of The Valley and one where more collaboration and new initiatives could further leverage this asset for the whole community.
Following the kickoff at the Economic Vitality sector representatives meeting on October 19 at the Hyde Away, the first meeting of the food group, held on November 16, was a lively and constructive discussion of planning next steps.
The discussion brought together farmers, restaurateurs, food processors, food producers, lodging owners, a food retailer and others. Those attending the meeting: Zeke Church, George Schenk, Liza Walker, Joshua Gibbs, Troy Kingsbury, David Hartshorn, Amy Todisco, Ana Dan, Jim Donahue, Chris Pierson, Aaron Locker and Economic Vitality facilitators Lisa Loomis and Peter MacLaren.
Topics discussed included:
Overall Valley topics that will help leverage the food sector:
• Branding. All of the businesses, products and produce and the overall signage in The Valley need to use the same logo.
• Having one local logo on food exported from The Valley could help put The Valley on the map.
• From the Valley Vision that has been developed over the summer, develop a tagline for The Valley that shares the message and story of The Valley. Other taglines may be appropriate for each sector.
Food- and farm-specific topics:
• A one-minute video on farms and food in the Mad River Valley to use on websites, Facebook postings and TV.
• Ecotourism/eco-education are a marvelous opportunity.
• A catalog of The Valley farms and food producers including updating the localvore map.
• A newsletter on Valley food and farms.
• Land use policies that need to be investigated and initiated to sustain and support the farming community.
The Mad River Valley community will receive an update on this topic and the other assets and challenges coming out of the Economic Vitality workshops at the Mad River Valley Economic Summit on Thursday, December 17, at 5 p.m. at Sugarbush Resort. There will be an opportunity for community members to add their perspectives and get directly involved.
The summit is free and open to all interested Valley residents and businesspeople. It will feature findings and work under way for the foods systems, recreation, wellness and creative economy sectors. Following the presentation, attendees are welcome to remain for the annual Festival of Lights Community Mixer. Free food and a cash bar will be included.
For more information, visit www.mrvpd.org and click on the Economic Vitality link, or contact the chamber’s interim manager, Rebecca Baruzzi, at 496-3409.