Farmers Take to the Slopes at Jay

JAY – There’s no doubt that farmers are some of the hardest working people. Friday, Jay Peak Resort showed everyone’s appreciation of farmers with the 30th annual Farmer Appreciation Day. “It’s a day to get off the farm, come out and experience some snow, skiing and snowboarding,” said J.J. Toland, Director of Communications for the resort. Activities throughout the day included three free lift tickets and $15 tickets for anything above that. Farmers received discounted water park passes. Toland stressed Farmer Appreciation is not a marketing strategy effort for the resort. By midday, about 150 farmers had showed up and they kept coming. Calvin Willard of Barnet was one of the farmers at the event. The day for Willard meant getting out of the barn and spending time with friends and family.Norman Illsley of Randolph said Farmer Appreciation Day was a chance to get out in the fresh air. He has attended the event four or five times. “I really appreciate them making this day available to farmers.”Connor McKenna of Jericho came with a group of friends and planned to enjoy the slopes and taste some local Vermont products. “It’s an awesome day,” McKenna said. “The mountain is giving back to the local people. It’s the coolest thing ever, Jay rules.”“They work hard and they get to play hard too,” Meg Gibson, of West Glover, said.Bill Stenger, President and CEO of Jay Peak, agreed that everyone values Farmer Appreciation Day. “Agriculture is a cornerstone of our economy here.” Stenger said tourism and agriculture go hand-in-hand. “Any chance we get to express our appreciation to our agricultural community, we do it.”Stenger was very pleased with the turnout. “We have a lot of people who are enjoying themselves,” Stenger said. He estimated 1,500 people were on the property. “They’re skiing, enjoying the water park and the ice arena. We have a lot of things to offer people and that’s why we’ve got as many people here as we have.”Participants had a chance to sample some local Vermont products. Jen Butson, director of Public Affairs for Ski Vermont, said the organization has been bringing Vermont specialty foods on the road to share with everyone for 12 years. Foods included maple, dairy and meat products. “If you have a smile on your face and you want to sample some tasty treats, come on over,” Butson said. So why does Ski Vermont give away free food? “It’s about promoting local companies and local agriculture and that of course benefits our neighbors and benefits the state.”Jacques Couture of Westfield, representing the Vermont Maple Industry, was giving away samples from Couture’s Maple Shop and Bed and Breakfast. Couture attended the event because he’s a farmer and said that specialty food events are a way to promote some of his products. “It’s good for the economy,” Couture said.Jeff Gauthier from Vermont Smoke and Cure from South Barre attended the event to demonstrate his products. He said the event brings a mix of local people and tourists.