Focus is on female food entrepreneurs

Kaeleigh Barker, director of strategies for Cooperatives for a Better World, speaks at a recent cooperative business workshop.

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BRATTLEBORO — This year's Slow Living Summit has special emphasis on women working in innovative ways around food and food systems.

"I am very excited this year to bring so many minds together for an incredible exchange of ideas in a really wonderful time for so many women in our business community," said Jen Brandt, summit coordinator. "There are so many new ways of working and doing business that I have been enlightened to, and they all seem to reflect back on what we mean when we say Slow Living."

The Slow Living Summit: Future of Women in Food Entrepreneurship 2019 - being held downtown Thursday and Friday in conjunction with Strolling of the Heifers - is intended to "bring together women and men in the farm and food industries, and provide them with the tools, resources, and mentorship needed in growing socially responsible businesses," according to "The summit aims to create a positive change in our communities and revolutionize the future of food."

Brandt said the phrase the summit is named for "is not about living life or working slow, but rather approaching anything you do with intentionality."

"Work-life balance seems to be of particular importance to younger entrepreneurs, and the co-op model speaks to that well," she said, referring to a session happening Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

"Co-ops tend to have more women in upper management, and often times make it easier for both men and women to strike a feasible work-life balance. Co-ops also encourage community building and hold workers to higher accountability while yielding better results, often because of the ownership aspect; they offer a way to stay connected to and give back to your community in a meaningful way."

Because cooperatives are owned by their members, "there is this real focus on how it anchors both ownership and capital investment within its membership," said Kaeleigh Barker, director of strategies for Cooperatives for a Better World, a global nonprofit that promotes cooperative businesses, who will share the stage with Addie Rose Holland, founder and worker-owner of Real Pickles; Amanda Freund of Freund's Farm Market and farmer-owner of Cabot Creamery Co-operative; and Heather Wright of Wright Jones PLC.

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Barker said she plans to bring "a global perspective" to the session as she has worked on strategies with groups in New England, the United States and around the world.

"What's so fun? Co-ops, you can find them anywhere," said Barker, who is trying to spread the message that people can participate in these organizations at "every level."

The summit will kick off Thursday with a continental breakfast at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden followed by plenary sessions with keynote speakers Liz Charlesboi and Donna Kilpatrick. Other sessions will include "Women in the Workplace: How to Approach Both Challenge and Succession" with Christine Hallquist, Marni Karlin, Meghan Ireland and Emily Harrison; "Innovation in Agriculture: Leaders in Change" with Christine Ng, Jesse Laflamme and Amber Sciligo; "The Hospitality Industry" with Caroline Corrente, Amy Chamberlain and Danielle Boyce; "Grow Food Everywhere!: Regenerate Soil, Restore Climate, Revitalize Community" with Deb Habib; "Place-Based Food Business Creation and Investing" with Cathy Berry, Lisa Lorimer and Orly Munzing; "Pitch Workshop: Let Your Ideas Shine" with Gwen Pokalo and Cairn Cross; and "Cooperative Ownership: Our Path to Owning Our Workplace!" with Jaquelyn Rieke, Martina Anderson and Liz Knapp.

Friday will start with "Making Money in Agriculture: Lessons from the Wine Business" with Charlie Merinoff followed by Women in Agriculture: Telling Our Stories and Finding the Balance" with Donna Kilpatrick, Hannah Sessions and Abbie Corse; "Know Your Rights: Law in the Era of #MeToo" with Heather Wright; "The Social, Economic and Ecological Benefits of a Diverse Food System" with Nicola Williams; "Women Founders: Real Life Startup Stories from Windham Grows" with Ingrid Chrisco, Katie Dodge, Andrea Ogden and Allessandra Rellini; "Wholesale Success: Four Steps to Getting Your Product on the Retail Shelf" with Alli Ball; "Easy Ways You Can Invest in Vermont Women TODAY" with Laury Saligman, Janice Shade and Karin Chamberlin; "YOU Can Influence Food Policy: Strategies for Advocacy" with Marni Karlin; "Building Connections to Place through Food: Stories both Urban and Rural" with Jamila Gaskins and Mari Stuart; "Women's Business Journeys" with Sas Steward, Emily Benson, Linda Kuzior, Caitlin Caserta and Danya Landis; and a final plenary session with Charlie Merinoff, Cathy Berry, Lisa Lorimer and Donna Kilpatrick.

The summit "provides a forum for food and agriculture entrepreneurs to network and get focused resources and specialized expertise they need to build great companies," according to, where more information on sessions, scheduling, locations and moderators for each panel can be found.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.