By Polly Lynn Mikula
RUTLAND—On Saturday, April 1, a few United Nations delegates wandered through the vendors at the Vermont Farmers Food Center (VFFC) in Rutland tasting a variety of Vermont products including fresh maple syrup, maple candy, apple cider, guacamole and jams, among other treats. Their visit was part of a short Vermont tour with prior stops at Bennington College and Northshire Bookstore. The purpose was to discuss women’s economic empowerment and peaceful and inclusive societies.
The VFFC was held up as an example of a successful community initiative that has increased economic development by both opening new markets and expanding existing ones, as well as providing a marketplace for up-and-coming agricultural entrepreneurs. At the same time, the VFFC has fostered an inclusive community in the greater Rutland region supporting local food and agriculture, as well as educational, health and sustainable initiatives.
Yvonne Lodico spearheaded the trip to Vermont. Lodico is the founder of the Grace Initiative (an initiative for Governance, Reconciliation, Agriculture and Coexistence), a non-profit in Vermont, and previously served 15 years with the United Nations. The trip came on the heels of International Women’s Day, March 8, and the 2017 U.N. Commission on Status of Women (CSW) conference held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, March 13-24, after which the Grace Initiative co-sponsored a CSW event to focus on a project that it is developing in Colombia. The title of that event was: Supporting the peace process in Colombia, and the re-integration of female ex-combatants, which takes into consideration the 2030 Agenda for Development, including the empowerment of women and girls and peaceful and inclusive societies.
The VFFC could be a model to help achieve those goals, according to Greg Cox, VFFC president and founding board member. Cox, along with Mayor David Allaire, greeted the delegates when they arrived at the VFFC in Rutland.
“What we’re doing here could be replicated in Columbia or other communities to help foster community engagement, economic development and peace,” Cox said. “We’re honored to welcome these guests and share some of our successes.”
Due to the April 1 snowstorm, the number of U.N. delegates joining Lodico dwindled to two: Mr. Fabian Garcia, a the delegate from Ecuador, and Mrs. Chulamanee Chartsuwan, an ambassador and the deputy permanent representative from Thailand.
After touring the booths at the VFFC and learning a bit about the center and its vendors while taste-testing, the delegates were treated to a feast of local fares. During the lunch, Jody Moore and Heidi Lynch presented more information about Community Supported Agriculture and the Health Care Share Program (an initiative to improve the health and well-being of families and individuals facing food insecurity and health issues by providing locally grown foods) at the VFFC.
The VFFC was the last stop on their Vermont tour before the delegates were scheduled to return to New York City.
Photo by Robert Layman
UN delegate Chulamanee Chartsuwan from Thailand tries a cup of Vt. apple cider. Mayor Allaire looks on.