Taking Root Student Symposium Agenda

Our agenda is 95% finished, and we want to give you a sneak peak of the full day!  Stay tuned for final touches as October 28th nears!

Registration is now open – please email Annie Rowell annie.rowell@sodexo.com for more information.

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Taking Root Student Symposium – Save the Date!

We couldn’t be more excited to announce that we are hosting the Taking Root Student Symposium on October 28th at the University of Vermont, in partnership with Vermont Farm to Plate and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

This symposium is designed for all Vermont college students to celebrate farm to institution and learn about what it means to chart a career in food. We are pleased to

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Ben Hewitt, Taking Root Student Symposium’s Keynote Speaker

share that our keynote speaker will be Ben Hewitt, a Vermont-based author of many books including The Town That Food Saved and Making Supper Safe. Throughout the day, students will learn about:

 

  • Why farm to institution is important
  • Innovative work happening in Vermont’s food system
  • Career paths of many of Vermont’s leading entrepreneurs and thinkers
  • Resources available at each campus for students to pursue food systems-relevant coursework as well as food-related employment
  • Current food-related job opportunities; students will also have time to network directly with some Vermont employers in the food industry.

And let’s not forget about lunch!

  • Eat the Loop Supper celebrates innovative production practices, featuring Eat the Loop Supper LogoVermont producers who “close-the-loop” through the creation of their product.  From waste-free production to soil health management, Vermonters are leading the way in innovative practices.  Meet the producers and fill your bellies with the “loop.”

Are you a Vermont college student interested in attending? Here’s what you need to know:

  • We are looking for student representation from all Vermont campuses. We also have limited space for this event. If you are interested in attending, please email Annie Rowell at annie.rowell@sodexo.com.
  • Registration costs $25 for the full day, 9am-4pm.

I am excited to attend the Taking Root Student Symposium at UVM because I was inspired by Ben Hewitt’s book ‘The Town that Food Saved’ when I was introduced to it as an undergrad. Also, I will be looking to find employment soon, so getting to learn more about current food-related positions and Vermont-based employers is a great opportunity. Overall, I can’t wait to meet people with similar passions as me and people who want to learn more!
– Ann Chiarenzelli, UVM Food Systems Master Student & Taking Root attendee

 

The statewide college student gathering is a perfect opportunity for our students in our learning community “A Call to Action: Building Sustainable Communities”. […] The symposium lands at a perfect place and time to support our goals; we hope that many students, faculty and staff from other Vermont colleges and universities attend.

– Ellen Hill, Faculty, Northern Vermont University at Johnson

Here is a glimpse of some of the panelists, producers, and employers you can expect to see there!

Stay tuned for more to come! Be sure to follow us on Instagram @vermontfirst for more information!

Peaslee’s Leaves a 90-year Vermont Potato Legacy

Two weeks ago, we received the bittersweet news that Peaslee’s Potatoes, one of our celebrated farm partners, is selling the farm.  Peaslee’s leaves a 90-year legacy of selling potatoes grown in the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.  We started working with Peaslee’s three years ago after our Scaling Up Forum, a Vermont First event focused on educating and connecting producers with our Vermont supply chain.  At the time, Peaslee’s was in their third generation of ownership, and to their knowledge, the only female-owned potato farm in the country. They were looking to increase market share and were looking for new partnerships with Vermont businesses.

Peaslees 10With Peaslee’s long history of selling to wholesale markets, putting the pieces together to buy from them was fairly straight-forward.  We identified our potato usage by variety to inform their crop planning, and brought in our distributor, Black River Produce, who already carried Peaslee’s potatoes to help fulfill our statewide demand. In adding their products into distribution, Peaslee’s became available to many other Vermont food establishments, including the five Skinny Pancake restaurants throughout VT and western-NH.  In addition to buying potatoes directly from Peaslee’s, the University of Vermont was looking for a fresh cut diced potato, as UVM didn’t have the time to process all of their potatoes in-house.  The Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick, VT, made a diced potato for institutions, also sourcing their potatoes from Peaslee’s.  We promoted our relationship with Peaslee’s at many regional and national conferences, and the relationship was featured in a Vermont Farm to Institution ‘Best Practice’ report in 2016.  Over the years, Peaslee’s also became heavily involved in the food security movement with the Vermont Foodbank and Salvation Farms.

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Karen Guile-Caron giving the Johnson State dining team a tour of the potato storage space that Karen’s grandfather built in the 1920’s in the basement of the potato barn.

As Peaslee’s Vermont markets continued to grow, most people didn’t know that third generation owner Karen Guile-Caron was also the owner of an equine therapy business, Stable Connections.  While running two businesses is no surprise to most Vermonters living in rural areas, that doesn’t make the task any easier.  In addition to running her own business, with the combination of not having a 4th generation transition option while also looking out for her mother’s best interest, Karen knew she had a tough decision on the horizon.  “Selling to Sodexo and the Vermont Food Venture Center [in Hardwick, VT] these past few years put us in the position of being able to sell the farm on our own terms,” shares Karen.

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Annie Rowell and Karen Guile-Caron in a Peaslee’s potato field.

To honor her grandparents and her father Bert, Karen preserved the home farm of 64-acres of river-bottom land through the Vermont Land Trust, ensuring their family land will always stay part of Vermont’s working lands.

Succession planning can take many forms.  For three generations, the Peaslee’s followed the more traditional path of the succession plan, passing the farm down from generation to generation.  This succession takes a different approach, but ultimately keeps the land in production for a new farmer, and allows the family to pick the time for a graceful exit.

We could not be more grateful for our partnership with Peaslee Vermont Potatoes these past three years.  There is no denying that this story is ridden with emotional undertones, but we honor the tough decision and celebrate the history of what the Peaslee’s have contributed to the state of Vermont for almost a century.