Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
*****Editors: please note hi-res photos are available here: https://goo.gl/photos/cdHFBvQdxW2oEZvQ9 ****
Farmers, producers, and localvores from across Vermont converged on Wednesday, January 27 for the 5th annual Consumer Night at the Vermont Farm Show in Essex Junction. Held on the second night of the Farm Show, Consumer Night celebrates the diversity of Vermont agriculture with the Winter Buy Local Market and Capital Cook-Off.
The Winter Buy Local Market featured over fifty farmers and producers of local cheese, meat, fruits and vegetables, milk, maple syrup, jams, culinary oils, honey, wine, beer, spirits, wool, and handmade crafts as well as ready-to-eat prepared foods such as Maple Wind Farm’s bacon hot dogs and ice cream cones from Kingdom Creamery. Over 500 people shopped and grazed their way through the local product booths, and three raffle prizes were awarded to lucky Buy Local Market customers.
After a long day of debate in Montpelier, members of the Vermont House of Representatives’ Committee of Agriculture arrived just in time to compete the Capital Cook-Off against members of the Vermont Senate Committee of Agriculture and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. Hosted by Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross and Deputy Secretary Diane Bothfeld, the Cook-Off gives teams only one hour to shop the Buy Local Market and prepare an attractive, delicious, and locally-sourced dish.
Shirley Richardson of Vermont Chevon presented the cook-off’s secret ingredient: local chevon, or goat meat, while Representative Carolyn Partridge of Brattleboro shared a bonus secret ingredient from her own garden: Gilfeather turnip. The Gilfeather, a Vermont original, is currently under consideration to become the official state vegetable.
The use of chevon highlighted the emerging goat meat industry in Vermont, represented not only by Vermont Chevon but also by Huard Family Farm of Craftsbury (a Buy Local Market vendor) and Pine Island Farm in Colchester (a Farm Show exhibitor). Goat meat, the most widely consumed meat in the world, has gained increasing attention from Vermont chefs and consumers while adding value to Vermont’s dairy goat industry by utilizing surplus livestock.
After a demanding hour of cooking, all three teams demonstrated creativity and culinary skill in turning chevon, Gilfeather turnip, and dozens of other local ingredients into delicious meals. A team of 2015 Junior Iron Chef Vermont champions from Champlain Valley Union High School—Jaida Breck, Emily Gilman, Kaitlin Robert, Madison Tobrocke, and Eva Rocheleau—also participated in the competition and judging.
A team of judges—including Andrew Burke of Scout & Co., Clarina Cravins of Healthy Living, Steve Marinelli of Milton Schools, Sally Pollak of the Burlington Free Press, Brian Roper of Sodexo, Lt. Governor Phil Scott, Lyndon Virkler of New England Culinary Institute, and Allison Weinhagen of City Market—declared the Vermont Agency of Agriculture team the Capital Cook-Off champions for the second year in a row.
The team’s winning dish, a goat meat stew, featured St. Hilaire Family Farm’s black currant marinade along with onions, garlic, celery, carrots, tomatoes, spices, and fresh local herbs. The stew was presented on a bed of mashed Gilfeather turnip and served with biscuits made with bacon and smoked maple syrup—by all accounts, the flavorful biscuits put the team’s dish over the top and into the winner’s circle. However, all three teams’ scores were close, and everyone appeared to enjoy the friendly competition. The Agency team members – Tonia Emmons, Alan Graham, Hunter Thompson, and Matt Wood—were thrilled with their dish and say they were proud to have participated in such a fun and exciting event celebrating local foods.
Consumer Night attendees also participated in Vermont’s Universal Recycling and Composting Initiative, with help from the Agency of Natural Resources and Chittenden Solid Waste District Waste Warrior volunteers who demonstrated how to keep recyclables and food scraps out of the trash.