From testing food quality with a flash to a solar-powered tractor, the possibilities for the future in rural communities will be showcased at this year’s CONNECT event during the Radically Rural summit in Keene this month.
CONNECT 2019 is set for Sept. 19 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Keene State College with the theme “What’s Next!” Co-hosted by The Sentinel and the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship, CONNECT began in 2015 as an annual networking event and project showcase for regional businesses and community developers. The same entities launched Radically Rural last year and folded in CONNECT as one evening of the two-day conference, which is essentially an expanded networking and educational opportunity.
Inside the Mabel Brown Room of the college’s student center will be artistic installations curated by Machina Arts, a Keene-based arts and event planning organization. These installations are intended to be physical and interactive representations of “what’s next” for rural communities, whether in lighting, farming, journalism or local entrepreneurship.
Dan Kittredge, founder and executive director of the Barre, Mass.-based Bionutrient Food Association, said his organization will have a prototype of its bionutrient meter, a handheld device that measures the quality of food.
“If you’ve ever eaten a tomato that’s fresh from a garden and a tomato from a grocery store in January, you’ve probably tasted the difference,” he said, adding that that means there’s a difference in the nutritional value, too.
By eating food that tastes better, people can help the planet by supporting more sustainable farming practices, and their families by consuming healthier products, Kittredge argues.
His nonprofit organization is gathering data to help people make better decisions about the food they buy, he said, and the hope is that the bionutrient meter will become more accessible. The device connects to a smartphone via bluetooth, and a person flashes a light at a food item — vegetable, fruit, meat, dairy — and gets data about the food’s quality.
Once more data is collected, the variation in quality will be better defined, he said, and the device will offer a simple green, yellow or red indicator light. But for now, Kittredge’s organization is offering a look at the future of food testing.
The Sentinel will display a three-panel exhibit showcasing the paper’s history, starting with a physical display of 10 significant stories covered by the publication. The second will feature a projection of a video highlighting how a story goes from idea to printed piece. Last will be a live visualization of an online platform tracking The Sentinel’s website and measuring which stories are read more.
Keene-based LED professionals Lumens for Less will have a lighting network designed to mimic the natural lighting provided by the sun. Chris Dubriske, senior sales engineer at Lumens for Less, has said the installation is designed to educate viewers about the way human eyes naturally adjust to the sun’s movements, and how artificial light sources from common light bulbs and phone screens can disrupt and strain that pattern.
Monadnock Economic Development Corp. will have information about its plans to create an arts corridor in Keene that would stretch down Gilbo Avenue and extend across Main Street to Railroad Square. A performance venue, living spaces for artists, a welcome center, a new skate park and a pedestrian mall are all part of the plans.
That installation will also feature a mirrored photo booth where attendees will be invited to write what the arts corridor’s future impact means to them and take a picture with their words.
Sun Moon Farm in Rindge will also display its solar-powered tractor for energy-efficient farming, among other installations.
Machina Arts will stage and design the CONNECT event, and will also serve a selection of craft cocktails from its restaurant, Machina Kitchen & ArtBar on Court Street.
Food will be served by the catering arm of CC&D’s Kitchen Market in Keene, which has fed CONNECT attendees for years. Along with an array of hors d’oeuvres and spreads, barbecue pitmaster Charles “Charcoal Charlie” Pini will offer smoked meats.
In keeping with the “what’s next” theme, co-owner Denise Meadows said they’re venturing into new local and global culinary trends this year, including a 16-foot charcuterie and cheese display as a centerpiece and some more adventurous snacks.
“There’s been a lot of conversation lately, more and more, about insects as protein: Is it the future? And not only for human consumption but also exploring it for animal consumption, for animal feed,” Meadows said.
CC&D’s Kitchen is partnering with Jack’s Crackers to make cricket crackers, she said, and with Eat More Cake for an insect-themed dessert. The most adventurous attendees can try the cricket cheddar biscuit with cricket sausage or the dry roasted and seasoned whole crickets.
“That’s one of the cool things that I love about the CONNECT event,” Meadows said. “I’ve been doing this for many years and (Hannah Grimes executive director) Mary Ann Kristiansen has always let me run with it.”
Also at CONNECT, Hannah Grimes will announce the winners of the PitchFork Challenge, a competition in which the winning startup takes home $10,000, and $1,000 is awarded for the best business idea.
The challenge involves a series of pitches between July and September to narrow the field of applicants to the finalists, who will present live at the Radically Rural summit earlier that day. It’s an extension of Hannah Grimes’ PitchFork program, which coaches entrepreneurs on a quarterly basis on how to pitch to investors.
The finalists for the business track ($10,000 award) are:
Keith McDonald, NH Tap
Albert Diemand, Elm City Compost Initiative
Suzanna Kamphuis, TotumVos
Andrew Osterman, Patient Precise
David Tanos, TANOSTEEL
Georgia Cassimatis, 17ROX
And the finalists for the idea track ($1,000 award) are:
Virginia Jordan, herbal horse and dog nutritional supplement
Glenn Letourneau, artisanal hard cider
Sarah Harpster, community kitchen and event space
Rebecca Dixon, a “superfood” and coffee alternative
Oscar Heller, food ordering and delivery app
Radically Rural will be held Sept. 19 and 20. Tickets for CONNECT can be purchased separately starting at $45, but they are also included with a two-day ticket for Radically Rural starting at $149. To register or to find more information about CONNECT and Radically Rural, go to www.radicallyrural.org.