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07/24/07 5:55PM By Ron Krupp

(HOST) Quite a few organizations are working hard to make the connection between consumers and locally-produced foods these days. Recently commentator Ron Krupp visited one of the newest.

(KRUPP) When the Farmers Diner left Barre for Quechee a couple of years ago, it left a wide gap in the downtown that a new non-profit initiative called LACE is beginning to fill. LACE stands for Local Agricultural Community Exchange. The founder, Ariel Zevon, made it her mission to help the Barre community reconnect with local farmers and provide healthy food to the people of Central Vermont.

She put it well when she said, "It seems illogical to rely on mega-industrial food suppliers from thousands of miles away, when there are family farms all around us struggling to make ends meet. By using local resources our community will become more self-reliant; by learning more about the food we eat everyday we will become healthier in mind and body; by channeling our money back into the land that feeds us we will boost the local economy and preserve our rural landscape."

Ariel Zevon is the daughter of the late singer and songwriter Warren Zevon and god-daughter to close family friend Jackson Brown, the popular guitarist and singer. Jackson Brown gave a concert on June 13th at the Barre Opera House to support LACE - raising $60,000. The audience was treated to great music and to produce from Vermont farmers, including potatoes one person in the audience called Vermont Gold.

The bread and butter of LACE is a store which sells Vermont-made and -produced natural foods and supplies. Photos and descriptions of farmers are posted throughout the market, and once a month the community has the opportunity to meet a farmer. An adjacent restaurant serves healthy locally grown foods.

LACE has a farm-to-community kitchen where residents can process local food, develop value-added products, and attend a variety of food, cultural and agricultural classes for adults and children.

I found it refreshing to walk into the former Homer-Fitts department store and experience all the activities of LACE. The space is large and can accommodate additional growth - even perhaps a small food shelf.

Ariel Zevon told me that LACE has been well received by the Barre Community. One new initiative has been to provide left-over food to the needy after lunch and at the end of the day. Zevon also mentioned that local librarian Heather Herzig comes to LACE and reads stories related to food to children who then go into the kitchen and prepare the food. It's called Cook-A-Book Story Time. Now that's what I call community.

Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay.
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