• Editor's Note Spring 2008

    Editor's Note Spring 2008

    The word ‘chores’ is spoken often in New England’s farming community, but people who work outside the agricultural sector don’t use it much. Last time many of us heard the word was when our mother told us to go do our chores–or no allowance! Nowadays, we ‘run errands’ and ‘go to work,’ reflecting our estrangement from manual labor. We certainly have as much to do as farmers, especially if we’re parents or are working two jobs to make ends meet; all of us are busy in our own way. It’s just that farmers rarely get a day off.

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  • One Greenhouse, Many Winter Greens

    One Greenhouse, Many Winter Greens

    In the depths of winter, a visit to Carol Stedman’s new greenhouse in Hartland provides a breath of spring. A sea of tiny greens waves hello. Claim a seat on the cement blocks that ring the 2-ft. high garden beds, bend over, and take a whiff of soil and fresh growing things. This is what I did on a recent January day. With snow blanketing the out-of-doors, the air temperature inside was only slightly higher than outside, not really warm. But the soil… a thermometer stuck deep in the dirt read a balmy 60 degrees. What was going on?

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  • Eat it on the Radio

    Eat it on the Radio

    In his book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, Vermont author and environmentalist Bill McKibben focuses on the importance of strong communities for the health and well-being of the planet and its people. He suggests that we can strengthen our home regions by producing more of our own food, generating more of our own energy, and even creating more of our own culture and entertainment. To achieve these goals, McKibben advises, we need to build or rebuild local institutions that draw people together, and one such institution that he cites in his book is a low-power radio station in the Mad River Valley: WMRW-LP Warren, 95.1 FM.

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  • Collapse of the Colonies

    Collapse of the Colonies

    The word “localvore” may have been Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year for 2007, but a close runner-up was “colony collapse disorder,” an unexplained phenomenon in which bees disappear mysteriously from their hives. The two words are more related than one might think, though. Given the risk this disorder poses to the foods we eat in Vermont, it’s important to ask: how serious is colony collapse disorder in our state?

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  • Sweet Honey in the Raw

    Sweet Honey in the Raw

    Todd Hardie is shy and quiet, but when asked about his favorite subject–bees–he is eloquent and full of great information. Todd has been keeping bees since he was a young boy. His knowledge about bees, honey, and apitherapy–the age-old tradition of therapy from the beehive–seems boundless. And his passion and commitment to sharing that knowledge with others comes through in his business, Honey Gardens Apiaries.

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  • Set the Table with Asian Greens

    Set the Table with Asian Greens

    With names such as shungiku, komatsuna and takana, Asian greens may seem somewhat intimidating to even an experienced home chef. In recent years, Americans have become familiar with unusual greens such as bok choy and mizuna, but if you’re the adventurous type, a vast array of even more interesting Asian greens awaits. And while these varieties are not available at the corner store, local farmers who grow them can provide the freshest quality, and may also supply helpful tips for using them.

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  • Zack Woods Herb Farm

    Zack Woods Herb Farm

    The growing demand for locally-sourced products in Vermont is leading residents to look beyond vegetables and meat to another important item for consumption: herbs. As a result, herb farms such as Zack Woods Herb Farm in Hyde Park, founded in 1999 by Jeff Carpenter and his wife, Melanie Slick Carpenter, are enjoying amazing success as Vermonters seek out local herbs not just for inclusion in homemade meals but for medicinal use as well. At Zack Woods, 35 medicinal herbs are grown for a host of ailments, and the Carpenters are working hard to keep up with demand.

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  • Three Square—Spring 2008

    Three Square—Spring 2008

    Growing up in Vermont, I ate chokecherries, dandelions, venison, and tempura day lilies. When I returned recently, to live here full-time, I began to notice how often the conversation in Vermont turns to food. What’s for dinner? For the next few issues of Local Banquet, I’ll visit a variety of people at home, peer into their iceboxes, and find out what they’re eating and why. And because these can often be personal subjects, I’ve omitted last names.

    Susan is chopping an enormous white radish. “You’re in the store and you think, why the hell would anyone buy this?”

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  • A Missing Link in the Local Food Chain

    A Missing Link in the Local Food Chain

    In good weather, the drive between southwestern New Hampshire and the Capital District of New York state can be breathtakingly beautiful: there’s the view from Hogback Mountain, the wind farm in Searsburg, the Bennington obelisk. But at 4 a.m. during a December snow storm, while pulling a trailer loaded with lambs over a foggy two-lane road, the drive is tedious at best and can be downright hairy.

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  • Cooking the Sting Out

    Cooking the Sting Out

    If you take care, and wear the proper gear, you can harvest an abundant and fascinating wild edible. Folks who have been stung by this rascal know what I’m talking about, while those who haven’t had the pleasure of eating it will undoubtedly come to appreciate this nutritious and tasty plant.

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  • Writing Down the Farm

    Writing Down the Farm

    The logic is straightforward and simple. It goes like this: Farming is the one business that everyone needs, because everyone eats. Add to it the fact that children grow up—often faster than adults can imagine. And when Vermont children become adults, they may want to become part of the local food system, either as a farmer or an eater.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Try a Little Tenderness

    Farmers' Kitchen—Try a Little Tenderness

    There are some meals that spell COMFORT to all who eat them. Leave your teeth behind. Savor the smell and the melting texture. Give yourself over to a sensuous repast.

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  • Last Morsel—The Taste

    Last Morsel—The Taste

    I roasted a loin roast from one of the pigs I’d raised—dinner plans had been canceled because of the ice storm.

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Writing Down the Farm

original letter from katrina
The Emmons Family

Written By

Elizabeth Ferry

Written on

March 01 , 2008

The logic is straightforward and simple. It goes like this:

Farming is the one business that everyone needs, because everyone eats. Add to it the fact that children grow up—often faster than adults can imagine. And when Vermont children become adults, they may want to become part of the local food system, either as a farmer or an eater.

Such is the reasoning behind the Farmer to School Correspondence Course. The program matches farms with classrooms so that students and farmers can correspond about the joys and challenges of farming. Through the letters, students come to understand that farming “is so much more than sitting on the front porch and watching animals graze,” reports Scout Proft, a farmer and the pioneer of the program. “And some children who live on farms are regarded almost as celebrities.”

This school year, approximately 75 farmers, 120 teachers, and 2,000 children in 12 Vermont counties are writing letters and sharing information.

“We are thrilled this year to be matched with a farm in our own community,” says Barbara Leonard, a second-grade teacher at The Pomfret School in South Pomfret, whose students exchange letters with the nearby Emmons family of Cloudland Farm between November and May. Nearly every grade in the school participates in the correspondence program, but this year, only the second grade has the distinction of being matched with a farmer in town—with the possibility of an end-of-the-school-year field trip to the farm.

A veteran teacher, Barbara finds many ways to incorporate the program into her curriculum. For example, the letters that the students write, as individuals and as a group, address the Vermont Department of Education’s standard for knowing how to write a friendly letter. And when she reads Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy to her class in the spring, she will ask the students to compare and contrast the chores that Almanzo did in the 1800s with the chores that 12-year-old Will Emmons does with his family today.

“In this modern world, kids don’t necessarily know how we used to live or how to be self-reliant,” Barbara says. “It is so important for them to see that farming exists right here in their own community.”

The Farmer to School Correspondence Course began in the summer of 1998 at the farm stand of Someday Farm, run by the Proft family in East Dorset.

“I always have a lot of activities for children at our farmstand,” says Scout, a mother of five children. Farmstand customers of all ages enjoy them. One summer, three customers, who also are teachers, approached Scout, asking her to bring some of her farm knowledge and activities to their classrooms. The only hitch was location: they lived in New York City, Florida, and Texas.

“I told them, ‘I have a hard enough time getting to town to do errands!’” she recalls with a laugh. “‘But I certainly could write to you.’”

For the first few years, Scout corresponded monthly with the faraway classrooms. Sometimes she would send a box of feathers, soil samples, or other intriguing hands-on materials. During this time, she got a sense of what was most useful to the teachers and most engaging to the students.

In 2005, Scout approached the Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) to see if they might sponsor a program that linked farmers and children in Vermont. Since Scout was serving as one of NOFA-VT’s Farm to Community Mentors at the time, it made sense for NOFA to support and promote the correspondence program.

Now the correspondence program is part of NOFA-VT’s Farm to Community Mentor Program, in which six farmers around the state receive a stipend to implement farm-school programs. Because the correspondence program is under the wing of NOFA-VT, some people mistakenly assume that it’s only open to organic farmers. “That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Scout says. “This is about sharing all of Vermont agriculture with children.”

There’s a lot of variety in what the term “farm” means in the program. The smallest participating farm is a homestead; the largest is a dairy farm with 130 Holsteins. Cheesemakers, beekeepers, and small-scale growers are involved, too. And more are welcome! The goal is to have at least one farmer for every elementary and middle school in Vermont, and to match farmer expertise with teachers’ interests. (There is no charge to enroll in the program.)

Education is about planting a seed, tending it, and watching it grow, and the correspondence program plants a range of seeds in the minds of students. “They may choose to buy local, or to be farmers, or they may be applauding from the sidelines,” Scout says. “It’s really exciting. I feel that it’s going to change the way Vermont looks.”

For more information about the Farm to School Correspondence Course, contact NOFA-VT at (802) 434-4122 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About the Author

Elizabeth Ferry

Elizabeth Ferry

Elizabeth Ferry is a writer and photographer in South Royalton who values local and sustainable agriculture. Her photographs and articles can be viewed on her website. The Food Works root cellar is named in honor of her parents, Ronald and the late Sylvia Ferry, for their support of the organization over many years.

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A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.


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