New central Vermont market focuses on farm-fresh food

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(Host) It’s not every day that a city the size of Barre hosts an artist as well known as Jackson Browne.

But that time is coming this weekend when the singer songwriter performs two benefit concerts for a local project headed by his goddaughter, Ariel Zevon.

The project is a new market and caf that brings local farm products and local customers together.

VPR’s Neal Charnoff has the story.

(Charnoff) The finishing touches are being put into place at LACE, the new market and caf in downtown Barre.

The building is the former home of Homer Fitts, a long-time city clothing store, which closed earlier this year.

The idea behind the new business is to provide an outlet for farm products and healthy food for local consumers.

LACE stands for Local Agricultural Community Exchange. The exchange is the brainchild of Ariel Zevon, who has lived in Barre for close to four years.

Zevon says the idea stems from the difficulties she had finding year-round farm fresh food for her family.

She realized that while Vermont farmers’ markets are plentiful, they are also seasonal.

Zevon says her mission is to create a sustainable food system in Vermont.

(Zevon) Overall, I really envision it as a community center, and I mean that in the true sense of a center for the community. Trying to create a multi-dimensional experience, and re-connect people to the food and the story of the food, so that you’re making a true informed choice when you decide to buy something.

(Charnoff) In order to be a year-round provider of fresh food, LACE is designing its kitchen as a small-scale food processing facility, which will function as a conduit between farmers, the caf and the market.

Zevon says this direct line from farmer to customer will keep packaging and distribution costs low, and prices affordable.

Many of those farmers and food producers will be at Sunday’s day-long grand opening, offering samples and agricultural exhibits.

Matt Lash is Executive Director of the Barre Partnership. He says that LACE will be an important boost for downtown.

Lash also says the influx of people expected for the weekend concerts is a great opportunity to show off the city.

(Lash) They’ve got folks from 24 different states coming to Barre. Many of them are staying here for the week. And it’s showing the state as well as the region and apparently the country that Barre is the place to be. And you look at Barre historically, we’ve been the center of artisanship for many years by looking at the stone trades. So I think it’s only fitting that something like LACE is centered in Barre, Vermont.

(Charnoff) Ariel Zevon says she hopes that LACE can be a template for other sustainable food outlets around the state.

(Zevon) The big dream for LACE is that number one it works, and that the business is sustainable with all the facets, and then when it works that other communities can use it as a model. You know we’re a non-profit, we’re not in it to become a multi-million franchise or anything like that. But if it works, it would be an awesome thing to see it work in other communities.

(Charnoff) Jackson Browne’s benefits will also draw a few politicians. Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch are all expected to be there to promote the future of small farms.

For VPR News, I’m Neal Charnoff.

(Host) Both of the Jackson Browne concerts this weekend at the Barre Opera House are sold out. At 2:00 o’clock Saturday, Sen. Leahy will join Jackson Browne for a tour of the LACE facility, on Main Street in Barre.

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