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Side Dishes: Farmers Diner closes in Middlebury

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Addison County lovers of the Farmers Diner will have to increase their “food miles” to track down some of those locally sourced milkshakes and burgers.

The Middlebury location closed last week, though the diner in Quechee remains open.

Co-owner Tod Murphy chalks up the closure to sluggish sales and a concept that attracted students and tourists but not enough locals. “There just wasn’t enough business outside of those two groups,” he says.

When the second Farmers Diner opened in the MarbleWorks building in 2009 (the first, also now closed, was in Barre), Murphy and his partners were thrilled to be in the heart of a region dense with small farms, he says. The eatery’s mission is to source some 70 percent of ingredients locally, as well as to provide a venue where farmers themselves can afford to eat.

Not everyone was buying it in Middlebury. “We couldn’t get enough traction in getting people to understand the value of paying $1 more for breakfast with eggs sourced from down the road,” says Murphy.

So far, it’s working in Quechee; that spot will continue to operate with the same model. “We don’t negotiate prices with farms,” notes diner co-owner Denise Perras. “We give them their asking price.”

Meanwhile, Murphy and his partners have been working on plans to open a location in California’s Bay Area.

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