Vermont food producers take home gold

MONTPELIER >> Once again Vermont specialty food producers shone brightly at the annual sofi Awards bringing three golds back to the Green Mountain State.

The sofi Awards, which stands for "specialty outstanding food innovation," are the most prestigious awards in the specialty food industry and honor excellence across a variety of food categories, from vinegars to vegan snacks. Vermont's winners were Big Picture Farm, Jan's Farmhouse Crisps, and Vermont Creamery.

This year's winners were selected from more than 3,200 entries by a panel of culinary experts in a blind taste test.

"With three more golds and a host of finalists at the sofi Awards this year, our specialty food producers have again shown that Vermont is a culinary giant in a pint sized package, performing as well or better than the actual behemoths of California and New York," said Chuck Ross, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

"Once again Vermont producers rise to the top with significant numbers of awards this year," said Jim Harrison of the Vermont Specialty Food Association. "We are very proud of the quality food products our specialty food members produce and are happy to see the recognition several are receiving."


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For the third year in a row, Big Picture Farm took home gold in the confectionary category with their Sea Salt & Vanilla Farmstead Goat Milk Caramels. Vermont Creamery, which has won a number of sofi Awards in the past, received top honors in the cheese category for their Bijou cheese, a pasteurized goats' milk cheese shaped into little buttons. Finally, Jan's Farmhouse Crisps won in the cracker category for their Cranberry Pistachio Crisp.

Other Vermont finalists and their categories included: Small Batch Organics — Granola; Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche — Cheese; Big Picture Farm – Chocolate; Lake Champlain Chocolates — Chocolate; Sugar Bob's Finest Kind — Cooking, dipping or finishing sauce; Cabot — Dairy or dairy alternatives; Fat Toad Farm — Dessert Sauces, toppings, and syrup; Potlicker — Jam & Preserves; Blake Hill Preserves — Jam & Preserves.

This summer, 38 Vermont exhibitors will showcase their products in front of 25,000 buyers at the annual Summer Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center in New York City, June 26-28. In partnership with the Vermont Specialty Food Association and the Agency of Commerce & Community Development, the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets sponsors a Vermont promotion. These efforts promote Vermont's high quality value-added products beyond our state's borders.

Meet the horses, donate your spare change

WINCHESTER, N.H. >> Draft Gratitude, a non-profit draft horse rescue, will host its first open barn fundraiser on Saturday, June 4, from 10 a.m. to noon at 148 Ashuelot St. (off of Route 119).

Draft Gratitude's monthly open barns, called "Change Their Lives!" is an opportunity for people of all ages to meet the horses and donate any spare change to the draft horse rescue organization. "Change Their Lives!" will be held on the first Saturday of every month.

"This will be a fun event for all ages," said Rebecca Roy, founder of Draft Gratitude. "You can empty your pockets or pocketbooks of all your accumulated heavy change for a great cause ... and you can grab a carrot or a brush and give the rescued draft horses some love."

All donations will go directly toward meeting the highest needs of the draft horses in the nonprofit rescue organization's care. Roy noted that the open barn events are also a great opportunity to meet the horses and learn more about the important work the organization does to save unwanted draft horses from slaughter.

"There is an endless supply of aged draft horses that end up being slaughtered every day. These are the same horses that have worked tirelessly their entire lives. Often they are quiet, well trained, talented horses with plenty of life left to live. They deserve a second chance and a place to call home."

Draft Gratitude, established in 2014, is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of unwanted draft horses. Once rescued, the draft horses are rehabilitated and will either be available for adoption or stay in sanctuary at the 23 acre farm.

Learn more about Draft Gratitude, its mission and opportunities to sponsor a rescued horse at www.draftgratitude.com or call 603-762-3266.

Putney School adds solar array

Putney >> Construction has begun on a 446 kW ground-mounted solar array at The Putney School, a progressive, private secondary school located in southeastern Vermont.

The project is being designed and constructed by Namasté Solar, an employee-owned cooperative and leading engineering, procurement and construction provider of solar electric systems throughout the United States.

The solar project is part of a multi-year sustainability initiative at The Putney School to ultimately achieve zero net energy consumption. To achieve that goal, the school needs to implement efficiency measures that reduce energy requirements so that the institution can produce all of its energy needs on-site through renewable energy. The school is planning additional efficiency projects including insulating older buildings and constructing two new renewable-ready dormitories.

The new three-acre solar array, when combined with the school's existing 38.6 kW solar array, will have the capacity to supply more than 70 percent percent of The Putney School's annual electricity needs. The solar array will not only help the school reach its sustainability goals and cut energy costs, it will provide more opportunities for students to learn from solar energy generation on campus.

Sustainability is at the heart of The Putney School campus, curriculum, and community. Based on a dairy farm, Putney students produce food from campus gardens and provide labor in the barns. They practice land stewardship on the 500-acre campus and take classes focused on sustainability, climate change and alternative energy technologies. Students have also collaborated on the design of every new green energy building on campus.

"The Putney School has been committed to educating generations of informed and engaged environmental stewards since 1935. We're honored and excited to partner with the school to help them achieve their long-term goal of net-zero energy," said Heath Mackay, Project Development Manager for Namasté Solar. "The solar array provides a hands-on educational opportunity for students to learn about the benefits of solar energy while also providing significant financial savings to the school over the life of the project."

The school was recognized in 2013, when they partnered with Vermont-based Maclay Architects to design and build the Field House, a campus athletic facility which was the first net zero LEED Platinum Certified educational building in the United States.

The Putney School is retaining ownership of the environmental attributes, known as Renewable Energy Credits, associated with the generation of the clean, renewable electricity from the new system. The project is being constructed in collaboration with Colchester, Vermont based E&S Electric.

Namasté Solar is an employee-owned cooperative that designs, installs, and maintains solar electric systems throughout the United States for commercial, non-profit, government and residential customers. With offices in Colorado, New York and California, Namasté Solar believes in transforming energy and transforming business through a customized solar experience from start to finish. For more information about Namasté Solar and to learn more about the company's conscientious business practices, visit www.namastesolar.com.