From left to right: Laura Hardie, New England Dairy Promotion Board, Clara Ayer, third generation dairy farmer and Sarah Wojcik, Ski Vermont. Photo courtesy Karen Pike
By Jahla Seppanen
It may not sound like the typical resort industry partnership, but Ski Vermont presented a contribution check of a record-breaking $16,365 to the Keep Local Farms Fund at Fairmont Farm in East Montpelier, VT, in early October 2015.
The donation came from the proceeds of last winter’s Ski Vermont Fifth Grade Passport program, enabling nearly 2,500 children to ski and snowboard for free during the 2014-15 season.
“Another season, another record!” said Ski Vermont Public Relations Director Sarah Wojcik, who said that, in total, 19 alpine and 29 Nordic resorts in the state participate in the Fifth Grade Passport program, accounting for nearly all Vermont resorts. The coming season marks the Passport’s 16th year, building on the more than 20,000 kids who have been able to ski for free at participating Vermont resorts.
Ski Vermont has donated to the Keep Local Farms Fund for the last three years, with contributions netting close to $45,000.
Through combined efforts to educate New Englanders about dairy farming, promote purchases of locally raised milk and other dairy products, and raise funds to support the sustainability of New England’s dairy farms, the Keep Local Farms Fund works to support the long-term viability of local New England dairy farms. The Fund partners with local nonprofits, all of which hold projects or programs related to the staples of successful of dairy agriculture.
“We’ve been donating to Keep Local Farms since before I started, but I can tell you we continue to do so because we feel a strong community connection to the farmers of Vermont,” said Wojcik. “Both the mountains and farms of Vermont add to the idyllic beauty of the state. Plus, we also like to honor the farm-to-table connection resort restaurants have with local farmers.”
The feeling is mutual; and the New England Dairy Promotion Board expressed their excitement with partnering with Ski Vermont for another season of community collaboration. The New England Dairy Promotion Board hosts the Must Be The Milk initiative, funded by the Keep Local Farms Fund, as a step to educate people about the value of local dairy farms to the economy, the environment and health and wellness.
In the end, both Ski Vermont and New England Dairy Farmers are neighbors fighting for a shared cause – to maintain the beauty of their home region while sustaining growth in the New England tourism economy. Representative for the New England Dairy Promotion Board, Laura Hardie, said, “Ski Vermont is a like-minded partner who appreciates and understands the connection between dairy agriculture and tourism.”
Ski Vermont is proud of its place within this popular winter tourism industry, and Vermont legislature has designated skiing and snowboarding as the official state sports. Vermont resorts also pride themselves on snowmaking quality and coverage, variety of terrain, and their historical impact on the sports of skiing and snowboarding.
This year’s donations to the Keep Local Farms Fund are also being proposed for farmer outreach and education through the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition (CVFC) and Dairy Vision Vermont. Approval for support of these programs is still underway.
CVFC is a nonprofit organization working directly with area farmers to provide education and assistance in meeting water quality standards for a clean Lake Champlain and thriving agriculture industry in Vermont. Through CVFC, farmers are provided with the tools and resources to adopt new and innovative ways to protect and conserve their water supply.
On the other hand, Dairy Vision Vermont, another local nonprofit, provides Vermont’s dairy farmers with business skills and guidance to create successful dairy operations, whether it be job training, finances or human resources.
The web of partnerships through Ski Vermont and the programs and initiatives funded from Keep Local Farms is unlike any in the nation for its connectivity between tourism, outdoor recreation, and sustained investment in local economy. Young mountain sport enthusiasts are being raised to appreciate local ski hills and locally sourced food.
Wojcik said, “As for getting kids out on the slopes and the connection to supporting local farms, we believe exposing kids to both not only educates them about Vermont’s economy and resources, but also encourages a connection with the landscape and healthy lifestyles.”
–Jahla Seppanen is the Associate Digital Editor and Social Media Manager for SGB Media.