Thursday, January 24, 2013

CAE Welcomes New Executive Director

The Center for an Agricultural Economy Announces Sarah Waring as New Executive Director

Program Director for the Farm & Wilderness Foundation joins progressive food center in Hardwick

Hardwick, Vermont – January 24, 2013 – The Center for an Agricultural Economy’s Board has announced Sarah Waring of Montpelier, as the incoming Executive Director for the CAE.

Ms. Waring leaves her position as Program Director for the Farm & Wilderness Foundation, a 73 year old non-profit outdoor education organization, to join CAE as the new Executive Director, overseeing a dynamic organization that operates the Vermont Food Venture Center, a multi-purpose processing facility and incubation kitchen.

 “Sarah brings a wealth of strategic experience”, says Andy Kehler, Vice President of the CAE Board and co-owner of Cellars of Jasper Hill, “Our organization will reach new heights under her guidance and leadership”.  Over the last eight years, the Center for an Agricultural Economy has evolved from a young, start-up to an expanding and maturing organization with two major properties and growth in several program areas. 

 “I am thrilled to join this team, and do my part to help strengthen local resilience and opportunity through our local food system”, says Ms Waring, “There is an impressive breadth of knowledge and experience embedded here, all pulling towards a common goal.” The CAE will continue to innovate, lead and deepen its commitment to fulfilling its mission of a healthy and local food system.

Since 2004, the CAE has encouraged the development of a local system that meets the needs and aspirations of the community and ensures economic and ecological stability and abundance. Through community involvement, integrated and responsible agri-business, and a commitment to economic, ecologic and nutritional health, the Center for an Agricultural Economy supports a vibrant regional food system.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Job Announcement: Professional Production Assistant for the VFVC

Vermont Food Venture Center
Professional Production Assistant

The Vermont Food Venture Center, a program of the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, VT is a semi-automated multi-kitchen incubator and processing facility. We offer our clients co-packing services as well as commercial kitchen production space supported by business and technical services. 

We are seeking an individual to work closely with a variety of clients in a processing and production capacity.  A highly organized and motivated person with a solid knowledge of commercial cooking, processing and recipe scale up is desired. Ability to work in a fast-paced environment with strong “people” skills is necessary. 

·         Assist and instruct clients on the use of facilities and food processing equipment at the VFVC as required.
·         Assist clients with recipe scale up and development of production techniques.
·         Manage the organization and cleanliness of production kitchens
·         Assist in maintaining cleaning and managing the warehouse
·         Perform additional tasks as required

·         Food Processing or commercial cooking experience
·         Excellent customer service skills
·         Strong organizational and time management skills
·         Strong verbal and written communication skills..
·         Flexible work schedule with ability to work occasional weekends and evenings.


·         Knowledge of food preservation
·         Better Process Control certification
·         ServSafe Certification
·         Culinary degree or equivalent kitchen history is desired

·         Requires standing/walking/bending/kneeling throughout shift and ability to lift & carry up to 50 lbs.

To Apply:
Please send your resume to
Please, no walk-ins or phone calls. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

VFVC Producer Spotlight: Michelle's Spicy Kimchi

Vermont Food Venture Center
Producer Spotlight

Michelle's Spicy Kimchi

Michelle Guenard started Michelle's Spicy Kimchi  in Craftsbury, Vermont, selling at local farmer's markets and has since grown her product to be included in retail markets and restaurants throughout the State.

In our interview, Michelle talks about the challenge of marketing an ethnic product, growing her business (which doesn't necessarily mean "bigger") and gives very yummy "gotta try it" recipes. 
Hint: Grilled Kimcheese and a very special Bloody Mary.

- Elena Gustavson, Program Director 

CAE: I grew up eating kimchi and although I can make it at home, it's labor intensive and sometimes I just need a fix. Unfortunately, the kimchi I found in Vermont was not like the homemade stuff - until I tried yours. Wow! I love it. Have you found that you needed to work hard to get people to try your product? 

MSK: Thank you, that’s a huge compliment! I have to admit that I secretly hold my breath every time a potential Korean customer tastes my kimchi. It’s a huge responsibility to be tinkering with someone else’s national dish which as you know, not only dates back to ancient times, but is also such a source of passion and identity. I try to give it the same respect that other cultures expect towards their flag or other national symbols. The only concession I’ve made is the heat level – to make it ‘Vermont Spicy’, not ‘Korean Spicy’ which as you know is blisteringly hot!

I know all about getting that craving you were talking about! That’s why I started making authentic kimchi at my home in Craftsbury. Yes, it is a lot of work – but worth it! I never expected to make it on a larger scale or to find anyone around here, other than my husband and I, who would want it. The students at Sterling College gave me the first inkling that there was a demand for it. And, when I started selling at the Craftsbury and Hardwick Farmers Markets I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reception. I had no idea there was such a strong connection to Korea here. At every single market I met someone who had served there or in other parts of the Pacific Rim, who had volunteered there, taught there, married a Korean or had even adopted Korean children. There’s a growing and dynamic community of Americans of Korean descent here in the Northeast.

 It’s definitely challenging to get people to try it who've never tasted it before. At tasting events I try to get a booth beside a cheese maker, since kimchi and cheese go SO well together, especially for the uninitiated. 

When I see people trying to make a wide arc around my booth I try to engage them… I ask if they like sauerkraut. If they say yes, I ask if they like salsa. If they say yes I tell them that kimchi is fermented like a sauerkraut and spicy like a medium salsa. I try to appeal to their sense of adventure. It’s always interesting to watch people’s faces as the flavors start to register. For some people it’s just too intense. For others, it’s a ‘take it or leave it’ experience. What makes it all worthwhile is when you get that ‘kapow’ moment – when you watch their faces light up and they’re excited – really, REALLY excited to have found something new that they love! These are the people who run around and find their friends and drag them back and make them taste it. Whoohooo! I don’t know of any job in the world that can make you feel as good as that!

CAE: There are a million ways to eat kimchi. What are your favorite recipes and ideas to share? 

MSK: That’s a tough one because you’re right – there are a million ways to eat kimchi!

 One of my favorite meals ever is bulgogi (Korean bbq’d shortribs) with kimchi and rice! It brings back so many memories for me. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but our ‘treat night out’ was the ‘Bulgogi House’ in Edmonton, Alberta. The kimchi was so spicy it would make us cry. The bulgogi was sticky, smoky and unctuous. So that combo is always at the top of my list.

Another favorite is Cream Cheese and Kimchi Dip. Half and half of cream cheese and kimchi, whipped up with a stick blender. Great with chips or as a topping for steak sandwiches or burgers - when the cream cheese melts – it’s decadent!

Some of my new favorites have come to me through new kimchi fans. They’re definitely an east-meets-west mashing of tastes. The Cellars at Jasper Hill folks introduced me to the ‘Grilled Kimcheese’ – thank you to sales and marketing guru Vince Razionale for that one! He uses their Landaff cheese, my kimchi and a robust bread and grills them up in a panini press. They often make them at events like the Hill Farmstead Brewery launches.

The guys over at Vermont Soy introduced me to ‘Marinated Grilled Tofu’. You submerge tofu cubes in kimchi juice, and they’ll start to ferment together. Then either stir fry with veggies or deep fry.

The Craftsbury General Store came up with the KPPK pizza. It’s Korean Pulled Pork and Kimchi pizza… it’s now their most popular pizza. My kimchi, pulled pork, cheese, garlic and extra kimchi juice for sauce. 

Positive Pie in Hardwick makes a ‘House Bloody Mary’ – vodka, tomato juice and my kimchi juice… you can’t only have one! And the Healthy Living Market in Burlington made a ‘House Kimchi Sausage’ with my kimchi… it was selling out so fast I had to ask a friend to get some for me. They were awesome!

I could go on, but as you said, there are a million ways to eat kimchi.

CAE: You have an active Facebook page. We hear a lot about the importance of social networking and you have a great handle on that. What tidbits of advice would you give to those just delving into social networking for their business?

I much prefer the intimacy of Facebook. You can get instant feedback from customers. And, people find notices for upcoming events less ‘spammy’ than emails. I also like being able to have real time conversations with people and be able to answer questions.

If I could have a do-over, I would have definitely started a blog instead of a webpage. They’re more user-friendly and the technology has made it easier to add on pay-pal portals and other apps. Less expensive too. Another thing to work on! Since I still live in an area with no cell phone service I haven’t really embraced Twitter and other forms of smartphone social media. But, some of my fellow food producers say they've been really helpful in spreading awareness of their product.

CAE: Any thoughts about what the next steps you will take for Michelle's Spicy Kimchi? 

MSK: One priority is to develop a vegan kimchi (without fish sauce) but it’s been challenging on so many levels. I’ve looked at ‘fake’ fish sauces but they’re either loaded with so many chemicals that I refuse to use them, or they contain some form of wheat – and I have a lot of customers with gluten allergies. So I’m still searching for an authentic tasting, fish free alternative. I know there are some forms of traditional kimchi in Korea that don’t use fish or shellfish but I haven’t yet been able to find anyone who can steer me in the right direction.

The second priority is to build the local growers network to encourage people to grow more of the ingredients I need. I’m hoping to work with High Mowing Organic Seeds on some trials for daikon radish and napa cabbage. The other challenge is getting people to grow bulk sized produce – in an area where petite, market sized produce can usually fetch a much higher price for the smaller grower.

On a personal note, I’d like to find the time to teach more fermentation and kimchi making classes. It struck me a few years ago that this form of food preservation is why we, as individuals, exist today. It was how countless generations of our ancestors survived through countless winters. And all of these skills were virtually lost in only two generations - between my generation and my grandmothers’.

I've managed to squeeze in teaching two summer classes at the Vermont’s Table Program at Sterling College, two kimchi classes through the awesome program at City Market in Burlington, and I've been invited to do a workshop with the chefs at the Culinary Institute at Essex. I've found it immensely gratifying to be able to share ‘the art’ of successfully preserving anything that can be grown in our gardens. So many of my students have said how much they wish they could have learned from their mothers or grandmothers. (For the art curing meat, ham or sausage, this was usually passed down from fathers or grandfathers… a tradition that has also suffered.)

For those of you reading this who don’t know me, you've probably gleaned that making ‘Michelle’s Spicy Kimchi’ into a kick-butt global enterprise is not in my goals, my ‘mission statement’ or my vision… and you’d be right. I’m going to give a little plug here to Heidi Krantz. She’s the ‘Vermont Small Business Development’ counselor at the Vermont Food Venture Center. She told me the most important advice that anyone thinking of starting a specialty food business needs to hear: “It’s okay to NOT go big!” I needed to hear that. I’ll keep plugging along and once I've got enough of a base market I’d like to expand the product line to introduce other fermented treats.

You can find Michelle's Spicy Kimchi at retail establishments throughout Vermont, including:

Buffalo Mountain Cooperative, Hardwick
Craftsbury General Store, Craftsbury
City Market, Burlington
Newport Natural Market and Cafe, Newport well as these other locations.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Press Release: CAE Seeds New Growth

Center for an Agricultural Economy Seeds New Growth

Seeks an Executive Director
For Immediate Release

Hardwick, Vermont – November 28, 2012 -- Today, the Center for an Agricultural Economy’s Board announced new staff changes that will enable the organization to meet the growing opportunities in local, healthy food systems.  Monty Fischer, the CAE’s Executive Director has been named the new Director of Development, as the call for a new executive director was made.  Elena Gustavson, CAE’s Program Director will serve as Interim Executive Director while the search for a new Executive Director is underway.

“Monty has been instrumental in helping us grow from a young, start-up to an expanding and maturing organization with two major properties and growth in several program areas,” says Andrew Meyer, member of the CAE Board and a local business owner. “We are excited about his new role and look forward to his continued leadership.”  Over the last eight years, the Center for an Agricultural Economy has been a leader in the statewide local healthy food system movement.  

 “We are reinvesting in our food system”, says Tom Stearns, owner of High Mowing Seeds in Wolcott and President of the Center for an Agricultural Economy’s Board, “and we will continue to innovate, lead and deepen our commitment to fulfilling our mission of a healthy and local food system.” The CAE has formed a Transition Team to search, interview and hire the new Executive Director.  The position description is available on the CAE’s website at or on its blog.

Since 2004, the CAE has encouraged the development of a local system that meets the needs and aspirations of the community and ensures economic and ecological stability and abundance. Through involvement within the community and local businesses and a commitment to economic, ecological and nutritional health, the Center for an Agricultural Economy supports a vibrant regional food system.

Media Contact:

Elena Gustavson
Center for an Agricultural Economy