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Poutine, pommes et fromage

New Yorkers, Vermonters take Canada food tour to help create world’s largest agritourism trail

October 26, 2018
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Walking into the lobby of the Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, a newcomer might wonder what that odd smell is and where it's coming from. After scanning around the room, they'd realize it's not an odd smell at all; it's just the cheese.

A contingent of about 40 people - half from northeastern New York and half from Vermont - met at Fritz Kaiser mid-day Tuesday, Oct. 16 after making two initial stops on their two-day CANAMEX Agri-Tourism Tour.

CANAMEX stands for Canadian American Exchange, a group that will soon see the vision of founder David Gillespie realized: the creation of the world's largest international cuisine trail network - about 1,500 kilometers (more than 900 miles) long. It will span from Vermont and New York to Ontario and Quebec.

Article Photos

Women sample and order cheese at the Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser south of Noyan, Quebec on Tuesday, Oct. 16. This was one of the stops along a two-day CANAMEX Agri-Tourism Tour, which was attended by contingents from New York and Vermont.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

"My goal was to understand how this two-state, two-province, two-nation cuisine trail network can move forward," said Paul Smith's College Chief Marketing Officer Shannon Oborne, who was one of the people on the trip representing New York. The college is the sponsor of the new Adirondack Lakes Cuisine Trail.

What was Oborne's biggest take-away from the trip?

"Frankly, the fact that it can happen," she said. "It's a pretty ambitious project and a great vision that our friend David (Gillespie) has. ... To see that there's legislative support from the different participants on the Canadian trail network and obviously the enthusiasm from New York and Vermont was really exciting for me."

Oborne joined the following New Yorkers: Cathy and Ernest Hohmeyer, Lake Clear Lodge & Retreat; Laurie and Michael Davis and Carly Summers, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County; Crown Point Supervisor Charles Harrington and his wife; Jacqueline Bowen, of the Adirondack Council; Michael Farrell, of The Forest Farmers; Pat Parker, of the Parker Family Maple Farm in West Chazy; Sabrina Alli, of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism in Lake Placid; Adam Hainer, of the Juniper Hill Farm in Wadhams; Alyssa Senecal, of the North Country Chamber of Commerce in Plattsburgh; Anna Isserow, of the Hub on the Hill in Essex; Ashlee Kleinhammer, of the North Country Creamery in Keeseville; and Lauren Richard, of the Adirondack North Country Association in Saranac Lake.

Lauren Richard is the artisan programs coordinator for ANCA. She wrote down four pages of notes about the trip for co-worker Joshua Bakelaar, ANCA's local economies and agriculture director who could not make the trip. Part of his job is to expand market opportunities for small farmers through projects such as Farm to School, Farm to Institution, and food hub development.

"I think my main take-aways were I was overall absolutely blown away by the high level of hospitality and how welcome we felt there," Richard said. "I thought we really experienced some true artisan quality places and products, and I was really impressed."

The next step for ANCA, she said, is to meet with the New York team and figure out the best role for ANCA to play in planning and marketing an international cuisine trail.

For Laurie Davis, who heads the Adirondack Harvest program for Cornell Cooperative Extension, she was impressed with how accommodating and organized the facilitators of the southern Quebec cuisine trail - the Circuit du Paysan - were.

"They really seemed to want to work with both New York and Vermont to move ahead with this international trail and they seemed pretty excited about that and saw the potential," Davis said. "The northern New York cuisine trails are looking to go under the Adirondack Harvest umbrella, and for me it was important to see how those cuisine trails in Canada were working that can help myself and our board make decisions about how we would move forward with that and if we are going to move forward with that."

In 2016, Gillespie, a farmer from L'Isle-aux-Allumettes in Quebec's Pontiac region, began collecting support for his idea of an international cuisine trail, inspired by the existing trails in Ontario and Quebec. The building blocks of the trail are still being collected, and this "exploratory tour" was designed to show New York and Vermont agritourism officials, politicians and food producers how it's being done in Canada. When complete, the trail network would include New York's six new Adirondack cuisine trails announced earlier this month, the new Lake Champlain Tasting Trail in Vermont launched in June, and at least three of the regions recently visited during the CANAMEX Agri-tourism Tour: the Monteregie region in Quebec south of Montreal, the Pontiac region in Quebec northwest of Ottawa, and the Prescott Russell region in Ontario south of Ottawa.

"I often come upon my more inspired ideas while working the fields on my farm or tending to my sheep," Gillespie said in a press release issued during the tour. "Hearing that increasingly consumers want to know where their food comes from and how it is made, I wondered how an area like the Pontiac could attract such travelers. It is also about connecting the 2 percent who are farmers to the 98 percent of the population who have a nostalgic interest in agriculture."

On Oct. 16, the New York team toured the Chazy Orchards in Chazy and the Cidrerie du Minot in Hemmingford, Quebec before meeting the Vermonters at Fritz Kaiser. Then everyone parked their cars at Lacolle, Quebec and took a motor coach bus to Fort-Coulange, Quebec - about a four-hour drive - northwest of Ottawa. They stayed overnight at the Spruceholme Inn, where they listened to speeches from local, regional and provincial politicians before having dinner made with local food and beverages and listening to a live band.

On Oct. 17, the group stopped for tours at the Glad Crest dairy farm, Little Red Wagon Winery and Hendrick Farm before parking at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

"We met in front of the steps with members of Parliament, our MPs, which is equivalent to your congressmen in Washington," Gillespie said at the St-Albert Market later that day. "We met in front of the tower and they gave speeches there, and then we had a walkabout."

After speeches from the MPs, including Will Amos from the Pontiac region, Ernest Hohmeyer spoke for the New York group and Chuck Ross, the director of extension for the University of Vermont, spoke for the Vermont group. During the trip, letters of support were relayed to Canadian officials from New York Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott.

"It's already got some momentum, and what I hope we do is continue to knock small obstacles out of the way and let this thing grow organically," Ross said after the trip to Parliament Hill. "We would love the support of our governments, and I believe we have that, but it's really a project of the producers and of the folks who support community development, whether they be chambers of commerce or economic development organizations and our regions and towns, our producers and our culinary facilities."

The trip ended with tours of the Brasserie Etienne Brulee (brewery) in Embrun, Ontario and the Fromagerie St-Albert in St-Albert, Ontario, a cheese factory where the group sampled fresh cheese curd on top of french fries, covered with gravy - a traditional Canadian side dish called poutine.

In early November, Gillespie will be traveling to the first World Congress on Agritourism in Italy to present his idea of the Canadian-American international cuisine trail. An official name for the trail has not yet been decided.



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