• Publishers' Note Summer 2014

    Publishers' Note Summer 2014

    We’re turning 7 this summer! It’s amazing to think that Local Banquet has had the privilege of chronicling the local and sustainable food movement here in the state as it has grown up. Of course we owe a tremendous amount to the folks who, in the 1970s, came to Vermont to start the work and give us a solid foundation: knowledge passed from one generation to the next.

    Continue Reading

  • Set the Table with Seaberries

    Set the Table with Seaberries

    I’d never actually seen a sea buckthorn plant or eaten any of its berries until I moved to Vermont. Already familiar with sea buckthorn in my skincare products, I was inspired to learn more. And when I did: zing, zest, tang! I was struck by sea buckthorn berries’ complex, passionfruit, citrus-like flavor. It was like nothing I’ve tasted.

    Continue Reading

  • Growing Unusual Veggies

    Growing Unusual Veggies

    Just because we live in northern New England doesn’t mean we have to subsist on carrots and potatoes. These familiar vegetables grow well for us despite our cool nights and relatively short summers. But so do tomatoes, a warm-climate vegetable, and other frost-sensitive vegetables like summer squashes, beans, and cukes. What we grow is largely what we know—and what our Grannies grew—but it doesn’t have to be this way.

    Continue Reading

  • Honey Homeyness

    Honey Homeyness

    I suppose every beekeeper feels that the place where “their” bees forage is the capital of taste, for it’s true that honey can capture the charms of particular nectars in particular places all over the world.

    Continue Reading

  • Getting One’s Goat

    Getting One’s Goat

    Although Vermont is known for its goat’s milk cheeses, it hasn’t always been an easy place to find local goat meat. To acquire a goat, Chuda Dhaurali used to trek to Boston or New Hampshire from his home in Burlington, spending money on gas and occasionally getting lost in the process. Sometimes “it would take the whole day,” he says.

    Continue Reading

  • Mushroom Grower, Man of Peace

    Mushroom Grower, Man of Peace

    Sitting with Amir Hebib in his living room in Colchester, sipping herbal tea made from his own spearmint and lemon balm, you get a sense of peace, of refuge. But when you talk to Amir about his life, you discover that the road to this peaceful Vermont home has been a difficult, war-blasted one.

    Continue Reading

  • Farm-ecology

    Farm-ecology

    My husband, John, reminds me every so often that in a world of seven billion people it is a privilege to own land. This is a good thing to contemplate as I stack brush and run it through the wood chipper. After a long winter, I’m already feeling the ache in my back and shoulders from only a few hours of work.

    Continue Reading

  • Cafeteria Cooking: A New Era in Vermont Schools

    Cafeteria Cooking: A New Era in Vermont Schools

    We all know that “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Similarly, as any parent knows, you can put good, healthy food on kids’ lunch plates but that’s no guarantee they’ll actually eat it. But who can blame them? Consider what they’re used to.

    Continue Reading

  • Why Mid-Scale Farming Is Important in Vermont

    Why Mid-Scale Farming Is Important in Vermont

    Vermont’s vibrant farm economy is made up of all sizes, scales, and types of farms—something that’s beneficial, because a high diversity of scale and business model is critical to improving the sustainability and resiliency of our food system. Yet within Vermont (and outside Vermont) there is a particular fondness for the smallest scale farms.

    Continue Reading

  • Farmers' Kitchen—Sprouting Up

    Farmers' Kitchen—Sprouting Up

    When visitors come through the door of our grow room, they often inhale deeply and exclaim how nice it is to see and smell green growing things bursting from trays, especially in the heart of winter. At Peace of Earth Farm in Albany, we grow a variety of vegetables and fruits, but we also grow harder-to-find shoots and sprouts.

    Continue Reading

  • A Vermont Pasture

    A Vermont Pasture

    You have to work your tillage land
    And mow and hoe and plow it,
    But as for pasture, all you do
    Is jest to sheep or cow it;
    And you can walk jest where you please,
    Instead of ‘round the edges,
    And Sunday you can go and set
    Upon the pasture ledges.

    Continue Reading

Farm-ecology

How one Vermont farm is addressing climate change and pollinator loss.

Apple blossoms at The Farm Between
Apple blossoms at The Farm Between

Written By

Nancy Hayden

Written on

May 23 , 2014

My husband, John, reminds me every so often that in a world of seven billion people it is a privilege to own land. This is a good thing to contemplate as I stack brush and run it through the wood chipper. After a long winter, I’m already feeling the ache in my back and shoulders from only a few hours of work. Yet it feels good to use this aging body, and I know it’s good for me. It is a privilege to grow older, too.

It was 22 years ago when we launched our farm, The Farm Between, a diversified organic fruit farm, fruit nursery, and pollinator sanctuary. Nestled in the Lamoille River Valley between Cambridge and Jeffersonville, and settled in the early 1800s, it is one of the oldest homesteads in the area. Like many old Vermont farms, it came with a large farmhouse and many outbuildings including a gigantic post-and-beam barn, all of which were beautiful but in need of repair. The land needed even more work. The past owners had kept it hayed over the years, which had left the soils depleted. There was also a fair amount of erosion, no riparian zone buffer near the stream, and little diversity of plant species. We looked forward to mending this farm and land, keeping in mind our interest in blending agriculture and ecology.

We started out as many young organic farmers do: raising livestock, building the soils, growing vegetables. We had our own farm market, sold at farmers’ markets, and started a CSA. Roughly 12 years ago though, we re-evaluated our farming endeavors and decided to make a serious investment in different kinds of organic fruit. There were several reasons for this. The increasing numbers of veggie and livestock farmers in Vermont meant a real increase in competition, and we noticed a gap in the area of local, organic fruits. These are high-value crops, and with the exception of strawberries, they literally take years to bear fruit, which is why many new farmers don’t start out in fruit. So we overlapped our fruit-planting expansion while we still had our veggie CSA. We also realized that propagating our own plants would be cost effective and that selling the extras was a way to promote local food sovereignty.

Another big reason for the switch to fruit and a fruit nursery was that during our final years on the farm, with the mortgage paid off and the kids gone, we wanted something manageable with just the two of us and a few occasional workers. We didn’t want to get bigger and spend more time on the administrative parts of farming instead of on the hands-on aspects. We believe small is beautiful, and with high-value fruit crops and value-added fruit products (see sidebar), we can remain small while providing a living for ourselves.

♦♦♦

One of the main things we’ve learned over the years is that organic farming is as much about healing and nurturing people as it is about healing and nurturing the soils and the land. Ecologically educated and trained, we’ve always seen the farm (including the people) as its own ecosystem where everything is connected. It’s also connected to the global ecosystem, and with all the environmental problems today, even an ailing society, we’ve asked ourselves what we can do on our patch of earth to improve things, while still making a living.

For example, climate change is a real concern for farmers these days. Lamoille Valley rainfall data from NOAA shows a steadily increasing trend from the 100-year average. We’re getting seven to nine inches of rain per year more than we used to. This means increased storm runoff, erosion, and flooding. The extra rainfall makes it even more important to maintain riparian buffer zones on the edges of streams and rivers, something many farmers are reluctant to do because it takes land out of production.

One of the things we’ve been doing is tree coppicing—cutting certain types of trees (for example., willows and silver maples) and allowing the shoots to grow out from the stumps. This allows for regular harvesting of biomaterials that we use for mulch, while maintaining the continual growth of the trees. Living trees help stabilize the stream and its banks during flooding. In addition, willows, box elder, and silver maples are an excellent early season pollen source for our pollinators. We’ve also planted fruiting shrubs, such as elderberries and aronia that can withstand flooding and wet soils in flood prone fields, and dozens of trees (locust, black walnut, and maples) to sequester carbon, provide early pollination services, and provide future lumber.

One way to deal with weather extremes and oscillations that are exacerbated by climate change has been to plant a variety of fruit crops, so if one doesn’t do well in a given year due to a late frost or winter damage, another one will. We’ve also been growing fruit in unheated hoop houses, such as fall raspberries and, this year, ever-bearing strawberries. We’ve even been experimenting with apples in hoop houses. This protects them from late frosts, hail, and wet leaves, which promote disease.

The demise of honeybees and many of our native pollinators is another real concern for farmers. If there’s one thing we know as fruit growers, it’s that fruit plants need healthy pollinator populations to bear healthy fruit, and not just honeybees because they don’t pollinate very efficiently when the weather is cool or rainy, as it often is in spring. Native bees are more efficient pollinators because they work in most weather, and bumblebees even vibrate the flowers to get them to shed more pollen. Pollinators need flowers, not just in the spring when most fruit bushes and trees are in flower, but all season long. Part of healing the land for us has been to increase the floral resources for the bees throughout the entire season and to increase bee nesting and overwintering habitat.

Farming and gardening promote the healing of people too, not just through the eating of healthy, fresh, fruits, but by offering physical exercise and connection with nature. That’s why part of our mission over the years has also been to bring people, especially children and students, onto the farm to work and learn about growing food. John has developed long-term relationships with local schools, summer programs, and different colleges to make this happen. Giving people a chance to get onto a working farm is one of the main reasons we had for opening our fruit and pollinator nursery business. We want to share the beauty of this place as well as the farm and garden experience with more people.

In our fast-paced, technological world, getting back in touch with the land, physical outdoor activities, and healthy local food are ways to rejuvenate ourselves and our communities. With the privilege of owning land and trying to make a living from it also comes a responsibility to strive to make things better. In the big scheme of things, what we’re doing may not have a huge impact, but to ourselves and our visitors, it does.

Photo by Carol Sullivan

About the Author

Nancy Hayden

Nancy Hayden

Nancy Hayden is an artist, writer, and organic farmer. Nancy and her husband own and operate The Farm Between, an organic fruit farm and fruit nursery in Jeffersonville. They, too, are apple enthusiasts. You can learn more about her and John’s farm products and plants at thefarmbetween.com. Nancy’s art and writing can be explored on her website.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest. Optional login below.

What we do

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.

Connect

Sign up for quarterly notifications and issue highlights.
Please wait