September 10, 2018
Canadian and the U.S. officials are collaboratively cooking up a new, international culinary trail — an authentic farm and food experience that will be part of a 1,600-kilometre, cross-border network of similar trails in Vermont, New York, Ontario and Quebec.
"It's a way for visitors to experience agri-tourism," Wendy Knight, Commissioner of Vermont's Department of Tourism and Marketing, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
"More and more, we find that visitors are interested in where their food comes from and how things are made."
The new network will connect existing food, craft beer and wine trails, according to an announcement made by Vermont's Agency of Commerce and Community Development earlier this summer.
The hope is to launch the trail by next year, said Knight.
"Vermont, much like Quebec, has a long agricultural heritage and a lot of agri-tourism," she said.
Wining and dining across state lines
Tourism and agricultural officials from the four regions have been working on developing the international trail.
The idea, Knight said, was originally developed by a Quebec farmer who saw the value in creating a cross-border connection with similar farming communities in the green mountain state.
From there, the idea expanded to the Adirondack region and Ontario.
Vermont's Lake Champlain Tasting Trail, launched this summer, includes 50 state-based producers, restaurants, farms, farmers' markets, breweries, cideries and wineries along Lake Champlain.
A cuisine trail, Knight explained, provides travellers with information about places to wine and dine along a selected road route. It provides business hours of operation, historical facts and a map either in paper or digital form.
Be it cheese, wine or craft beer, she people are interested in seeing the origins of Vermont's homegrown and homemade delights — foods and drinks that are becoming increasingly known around the world.
"This gives visitors an opportunity to go and see how those products are made and then to sample them on the way," she said.
Rising border crossing woes, political tensions
While the aim to encourage international travel, the border still remains a challenge for many who attempt to cross through customs.
In addition to the delays that sometimes last hours during the summer months and controversial denial of entry decisions made by some U.S. border agents, there are strict rules about transporting merchandise and certain organic items between the two countries.
Bringing two states, two provinces, two countries and two languages together is "certainly not without its challenges," Knight said, but the trail serves as an example of how international regions can collaboratively develop an economic growth initiative.
The fact that some Canadians are threatening to boycott travel to the U.S. is something Vermont takes "very seriously," she said.
"We are very concerned that Canadians might not want to come to Vermont because of the political tensions that are occurring nationally," Knight said.
However, despite the tensions between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Knight said the number of people crossing the border has been on the rise over the last year.
Currency exchange rates, she said, tend to have more of an impact on travel choices.
Vermont, she added, is reaching out to Canadians in an effort to mitigate that Trump-fuelled frustration.
Premier Philippe Couillard and Gov. Phil Scott recently signed a declaration that reaffirms the longstanding relationship between Quebec and Vermont, she said.
"Quebec and Vermont have very longstanding ties. It's a very important relationship to us."