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By Deirdra Stockmann, Slow Food USA volunteer

For many of us, mention of Vermont fills our mind with nostalgic visions of verdant hills dotted with small farms and sugarbushes and populated by cheesemakers and seedsavers. Of course, there is much more to Vermont than fall colors, maple syrup and artisanal cheese. But according to the chapter leaders I talked to, most of whom are also farmers or chefs, Vermont’s food culture and identity has only been growing stronger in recent years. This is great news for the state, and for Slow Food Vermont. The only trouble is that movement is so pervasive that it is hardly possible for the chapter to connect with all of the passionate growers, producers and eaters who want to be a part of it. Hardly possible. Over the last year, the Vermont chapter found a way to empower leaders, build networks, and expand its reach

The challenge

Leaders in Vermont agree that the slow food philosophy, the commitment to growing and supporting local food traditions and economies, runs deep in the veins of many Vermonters. There is a lot of interest in Slow Food Vermont’s full calendar of classes, tastings and potlucks. But over the last few years, local leaders became increasingly aware of a major barrier to engaging with current and potential members and friends of Slow Food in Vermont: geography.

Slow Food Vermont is based in Burlington, which makes sense because it is the state’s largest city (pop. 42,417). About one in three Vermonters lives in the greater Burlington area as do 60 percent of the Slow Food Vermont members. There is a strong critical mass of active members who help plan and participate in the chapter’s many activities. And yet, two thirds of the Vermont population, and 40 percent of chapter members are spread throughout the state’s many other small cities and towns and in every hill and valley.