Side Dishes: Vermont food tourism website launches
Did you know Vermont has an Agriculture and Culinary Tourism Council ? Its 13 members — food producer groups, nonprofit associations, tourism organizations and state agencies — will officially launch the council’s debut project on August 5 with an event preceding the Vermont Fresh Network Forum  at Shelburne Farms.
The council’s program has been in discussion since 2005, says Meghan Sheradin, executive director of the Vermont Fresh Network. In 2010, funding from the John Merck Fund — matched by the Vermont Agriculture Innovation Center — allowed the consortium to plan an interactive website to introduce tourists to Vermont’s farmers, producers and chefs. Jager Di Paola Kemp Design created the branding elements and name, Dig In Vermont . Bluehouse Group of Richmond developed the software, which focuses on “food trails,” or groups of hot spots to visit.
Koi Boynton of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture says the website will be updated seasonally to showcase the best Vermont has to offer throughout the year. For example, to coincide with the Vermont Fresh Network Forum, project coordinator Alyssa Nathanson has laid out a Shelburne-area trail that hits Magic Hat Brewery and Artifactory , Shelburne Farms , the Shelburne Museum Café  and Shelburne Vineyard .
Now it’s up to Vermont’s Department of Tourism and Marketing  to share the website with the rest of New England — and the world. The Lamoille Economic Development Corporation, which was planning a similar food-based site of its own, is instead paying to have Dig In Vermont translated into French for Canadian tourists.
Though the site is designed to lure tourists to Vermont so they can enjoy its food scene, Sheradin emphasizes that Dig In is for locals, too. “If you’re going to an unfamiliar area, this is your tool to find out what locals like to do and are proud of in their food,” she says. “The more Vermonters use it, the more compelling it will be for tourists, too.”