Editor's Note Spring 2017
Written onFebruary 22 , 2017
This spring I’ll be leaving Vermont’s Local Banquet after 10 years as its editor. The past decade hasn’t just been a banquet—it’s been a feast! Getting to work with so many talented Vermont writers to “lift the hood” on our local food movement has been a joy, and has given me (and hopefully you, too) many reasons to believe that we have quite an exceptional agricultural community here in Vermont.
When Meg Lucas and Barbi Schreiber launched the magazine in 2007 and asked me to be its founding editor, Vermont’s local food scene was young and plucky—a wobbly but confident lamb trying to find its footing among the big sheep of supermarkets and conventional dairy farms. The Farm to Plate network hadn’t been formed yet, Harlow Farm was still just serving its surrounding towns, and the Jasper Hill brothers were in the early years of milking cows. You couldn’t find bread made with local wheat, and no one was drinking hard cider fashioned with Vermont apples.
A couple of years earlier, “localvore potlucks” had taken place around the state, introducing people to the novel concept of sourcing all their ingredients for a dish from within Vermont. “Where can we find local cornmeal?” people would ask each other. (Butterworks Farm was the only place.) “What do we do about salt?” (Apply the “Marco Polo exception” to the 100-mile-radius rule and just buy it at the grocery store.)
Today, having brought a diversity of local foods to many locations, our local food movement is facing new challenges: the threat that consumers will abandon it, should it no longer seem “trendy”; the fact that a number of good farmers are packing it in after burning out; the cost of farmland in Vermont, which keeps new farmers from establishing thriving operations.
There are many issues to address, but I suppose these are my parting wishes: that more people learn how to cook at home, so they can use the raw materials that our farmers produce; that we rethink farmers’ markets, because not everyone in our communities feels drawn to shop at them; and that citizens of Vermont continue to build their “agricultural literacy”—their understanding of what actually happens on farms and why farmers make the choices they do.
After producing 40 issues of Local Banquet with the kind, generous, creative, and thoughtful team known to so many in Vermont as simply “Meg & Barbi,” I plan to concentrate on my own writing and journalism, focusing on issues related to humane animal agriculture and devoting myself to the project I started five years ago, Humaneitarian.org.
Even more significantly, my partner and I are planning to raise dairy sheep and grow fruit in the near future, on land in the Hudson Valley that my parents have tended for 30 years. I’m grateful that my involvement with local food issues has allowed me to grasp the perils and challenges of small-scale farming before going into it. As a result, I trust that I can approach this calling realistically, in addition to joyfully.
Please continue to enjoy Vermont’s Local Banquet. And please keep practicing this dictum, which—despite its ubiquity—is still quite radical, still deeply impactful, and utterly (and increasingly) necessary in these times: Eat local.
— Caroline Abels