One step closer to international cuisine trail

PAUL SMITHS — Two plus two plus two equals the Canadian American Exchange international cuisine trail, a new collaborative project between two provinces and states and the nations they lie within.

“Two states, two provinces, two nations,” was the repeated phrase in a work session Wednesday at Paul Smith’s College among representatives from public and private entities from each of the geographical areas: New York and Vermont, Ontario and Quebec, and the United States and Canada.

CANAMEX Founder and President David Gillespie said an idea that’s been in the works for several years was worked out, inching closer to a finished project. Joined with him were people from the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Adirondack Cuisine Trail Network and much more.

In the past year, there have already been two meetings on the proposed international trail — one in Canada and one in Vermont.

The trail would consist of culinary trail systems in Vermont, northern New York and Canada. Many trails are already in existence; there are six in northern New York that have recently been unified into one network. Other trail systems, like in Canada, require a bit more work before the two nations can connect and create an international network.

Much of what was discussed was how to proceed forward. Websites, pamphlets, marketing, funding and border security were all issues addressed. The deadline and first major test for this project will be fall 2020 in Vermont when an international conference of agritourism will be held, likely in Burlington, Vermont.

“It’ll be a tremendous opportunity, because I’d love to see it not just be a world destination for agritourism but the world destination for agritourism,” Gillespie said. “There’s no reason why we can’t. There’s enough brainpower in this room, and on the screen (guests participating by internet) to get people involved in making this happen.”

Perhaps the easiest issue to undertake will be the border security and notifying consumers what can and cannot be brought over the American-Canadian border. A draft pamphlet with different food items has already been put together.

Everything else will take more time, and part of the workshop was to get the people who had come, either in person or via video chat, to join the four committees — border regulations; funding sources and allocation; branding, marketing and website integration; and quality standards — that would focus on creating a plan to work with.

Many of the committees’ work will impact each other. Paul Smith’s College hospitality professor Kelly Cerialo said there is little academic literature that explained the economic impact of similar cuisine trail systems. Having such a study when the international cuisine begins could provide information that could be useful in receiving grants.

Also explained was what had been done wrong with other trails in the United States that had not lasted. Cerialo’s students researched this last year and had found that poor communication between businesses, the public and consumers resulted in low participation and the eventual downfall of these cuisine trails. She said the successful trails her students discovered had noticed that there would be monthly or bimonthly meetings between for the public and businesses, and that the value of the trail for consumers was easily conveyed to them.

Another item of discussion was whether to have a membership fee for businesses and how much it would cost. Cerialo said successful trail networks had businesses contribute between $100 and $150 a year, and that most of that would go to marketing and perhaps eventually toward staff who would field calls and address issues on the trail systems. Paul Smith’s College Chief Marketing Officer and Adirondack Cuisine Trail President Shannon Oborne said a need for this has already been seen on the Adirondack Cuisine Trail. It was mentioned that chambers of commerce and organizations such as the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism could do some of that work and that discussions between certain chambers of commerce have already been discussed with CANAMEX members.

The biggest discussion was over the conference next fall, which could be a powerful moment to roll out and introduce the international cuisine trail. University of Vermont Extension Director Chuck Ross said the priority is to make people aware of the trail next fall. People from all over the country will attend, and, if the international cuisine trail is well structured, attendees will hopefully make some noise when they return home, Ross said.

“This is an opportunity to have thousands of people aware of this, even if they don’t have a shot at attending this (conference),” Ross said.

The group will attempt to meet again in January 2020.

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