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Food and agricultural fairs strengthen Vermont’s local food movement

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In Vermont, Farm to Plate is the statewide initiative to grow Vermont’s farm and food economy and increase access to healthy, local food for all Vermonters. Vermonters from across the food system from farmers to educators, state government to financers are all working together to implement a statewide, ten year food system plan.

This summer, more Vermont agricultural fairs and food festivals than ever are focusing on the local food movement and therefore aligning with the Farm to Plate goals to increase local food consumption, promote local food processing, and advance agricultural and food literacy.

New to the circuit this year is the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Festival, taking place August 23-24 at the new Burlington College campus in Burlington, Vermont. A local food festival celebrating farming, music, and art, WYSIWYG will match chefs to farms for local, farm fresh culinary explosions such as Hen of the Wood with Pete’s Green, Misery Loves Company with Butterworks Farms, and the Bluebird Group with Tangletown Farm. National touring acts and local musicians will grace the stage while a series of “edutainment” stations will be set up throughout for festival goers to learn more about Vermont’s local food movement. Beer from many of Vermont’s award winning breweries will be available throughout.

The following month, another local food festival—that was sparked as an idea at Vermont’s annual Farm to Plate Gathering last fall—will come to life on the gentle knolls of Burlington’s Oakledge Park. Being held September 19-21, Eat x NE aims to to strengthen Vermont’s local food movement by welcoming the entire community to a free, all-ages festival. Several ticketed local food events will take place throughout the weekend with the featured “Great Harvest Supper” taking place on the 21st and is being prepared by a collection of the area’s star “farm to table” style restaurants. Educational sessions will take place throughout alongside musical performance and local beer and cider booths.

New festivals are not the only ones that align with Farm to Plate goals aimed at strengthening the food system. Traditional agricultural fairs have been raising farm life and local food awareness for generations and continue to thrive as favorite summer activities in all regions of Vermont. In additional to helping the state reach Farm to Plate goals representing consumption, processing, and literacy, traditional Vermont agricultural fairs feature the state’s dairy industry—making up 65% of Vermont’s total food sales.

The Orleans County Fair will celebrate 147 years in Barton, Vermont August 13-17. An entire area is dedicated to dairy with interactive children activities, a milking parlor with cows from some of the finest dairy herds in New England, and 4-H open shows. A cheese processing trailer, multiple farm animals, and the traditional agricultural and horticultural displays, arts and crafts, wool spinning, and antique farm machinery fill the fairgrounds with entertainment for all ages.

The 97th Deerfield Valley Farmer’s Day Exhibition is located in Wilmington, Vermont, and being held August 14-17. Fair-goers can expect a tractor pull, kid’s lawnmower rodeo, beauty pageant, and fireworks alongside community agricultural competition, education, entertainment, exhibits, and local food.

The Caledonia County Fair is considered the oldest in Vermont’s fair history. Being held August 20-24 in Lyndonville, Vermont, the Caledonia County Fair makes a statement of community traditions – both old and new. Amusement rides, 4-H exhibits, cattle, sheep, and poultry, floral and craft exhibits, maple displays, alpaca demonstrations, antique machinery demos, children’s play area, and horse, pony, and ox pulling all help portray Vermont’s working landscape through both entertainment and education while capturing both historical and more newly developed culture.

The Champlain Valley Fair first appeared in 1922 in the Essex Center however its great success meant it needed a larger space and by 1923 it was moved to its current day location. Today the fair is held at 105 Pearl Street, Essex Junction and takes place from August 22 to the 31. The attractions include seeing first hand old fashion fiber weaving on a handloom to more current day events like a Dierks Bentley concert on the Coca-Cola Grandstand.

The Vermont State Fair has been taking place in Rutland, Vermont since 1846 however it didn’t find a permanent home till 1856 where the fair still takes place today; at 175 South Main Street, Rutland. The fair runs from August 29 thru September 7. The attractions at the Vermont State Fair appeal to all crowds with events such as Rosaire Racing Pigs, Jason “White Shadow” Gibbons the basketball extraordinaire, a petting zoo, and the demolition derby.

The Tunbridge World’s Fair is four jam-packed days of traditional country fair fun from September 11 thru September 14. The fair kids off with Agriculture Education Day and is full of events for parents and children alike including, civil war re-enactors, an ox show, and a contra dancing demonstration and performance. The fun doesn’t stop till the last moment with other festivities including, the Junior Dairy show, free shows every half hour in the Northfield Savings Bank Entertainment Tent, and the swine show including agility competitions.

Learn more about Vermont agricultural events at www.VermontVacation.com and more about Vermont’s local food movement at www.VTFarmToPlate.com.

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