Times Past

Bartered, Smuggled, and Bought

The History of Salt in Vermont

Written by Pat McGovern | March 01, 2009

Illustration: view of a salt works on the Merrimack River, near Newburyport, Massachusetts, with large meadow in the foreground. Robert Aitken 1735–1802. Library of Congress.

When the Upper Valley Localvores took their first 100–mile diet challenge in August 2005, we came upon a serious stumbling block. No local salt! Tomatoes and corn–on–the–cob were abundant, but oh, we needed salt. Fortunately, one of our members had vacationed in Maine and brought back a precious supply of sea salt. It made us wonder what our Upper Valley ancestors had done for salt.

Farming & Feasting with the Robinsons: Winter

Written by Jesse Natha North | December 01, 2009

Cartoon by Rowland Evans Robinson, courtesy of the Rokeby Museum, Ferrisburgh

In the not-so-distant past, eating locally was a way of life and a matter of necessity. For four generations, the Robinson family farmed in Ferrisburgh, at the place known today as the Rokeby Museum. The museum’s collection includes correspondence and household records detailing the family’s ways of farming, preserving, and eating. In the last of this four-part series, we take a look at how the Robinsons cooked, ate, and farmed in the late 1800s.

The First Localvores

Vermont’s early Abenaki ate many of the same local foods we do today

Written by Lisa Harris | December 01, 2010

Illustration of winter squash

I have always been fascinated by wild foods. When I was a kid growing up in Indiana we had a copy of Euell Gibbons’ book Stalking the Wild Asparagus, and I remember how exciting it was to read about eating cattails, making acorn flour, and brewing sassafras tea. As I recall, the cattail stalks tasted a bit like mild turnips, the acorn flour was tannic and needed a lot of processing before being edible, and the tea tasted like something just this side of root beer. Little did I know as a kid that wild edibles such as cattails and acorns were just a couple of the foods historically gathered and consumed by the first people to inhabit the state I would one day call home.

Restoring Vermont’s Heritage

of Wheat and Seed-Saving

Written by Eli Rogosa | March 01, 2010

Cyrus Pringle

“The farming of our fathers was exceedingly simple, content to draw from a virgin soil the supplies of simple wants, instead of aiming itself for their increase. With the impoverishment of the soil, with the forests almost swept off the face of the country and the consequent climate change, with the multiplied wants of society and development of so many new industries, the highest intelligence and energies are required to remodel our system of agriculture so that it may fully meet the demands made upon it.

Set the Table with Peasant Food

Written by Robin McDermott | March 01, 2009

Midieval woodblock print of peasants farming

Many people say they don’t buy into the localvore movement because local food is “elitist.” ?Yet some of the world’s great cuisines—Chinese, Italian, country French, Indian—have their roots among people who had the least to work with: peasants. What can we learn from peasant cultures that can help us eat both economically and locally at the same time?

Farming & Feasting with the Robinsons: Spring

Written by Jesse Natha North | March 01, 2009

Robinson Family Tree

The 1860s were a tumultuous time for the Robinsons. Rachel Gilpin Robinson, wife of Rowland Thomas Robinson, passed away in 1862, shortly after dismissing longtime housekeeper Naomi Griswold from service. Because Rachel and Rowland’s daughter, Ann Robinson Minturn, was living far from her family in Waterloo, NY, Rachel’s death meant that a large home and farm were left in the hands of an aging father and his two bachelor sons, along with a new, unfamiliar housekeeper and a revolving cast of hired men who sometimes lived on the farm.

Randall Cattle

Vermont’s Official State Heritage Breed

Written by Meg Lucas | August 20, 2013

Randall cattle grazing

At the beginning of the 20th century, as Halley’s Comet graced Vermont skies, Samuel Randall could be found tending a herd of lineback cattle on his farm in Sunderland, Vermont. The type of cattle he kept had fallen out of favor as farmers began selectively breeding for specific traits and standardization. But over decades—until the 1980s—and in virtual isolation, Samuel and his son Everett unknowingly preserved this “landrace” herd.

Farming & Feasting with the Robinsons: Autumn

Written by Jesse Natha North | September 01, 2009

Sketch from the Rokeby collection of woman sorting apples

When autumn arrives in Vermont, it’s as if the searing heat of summer is absorbed by the maple trees and expressed through their blazing foliage. This signals the fiery death of another growing season, and the rapid retreat to winter’s dormancy. Ann Robinson Minturn remarked on this bittersweet transition in a letter to her husband, Lloyd, in September 1866: “The country never could be lovelier in September, I am sure, than during the present one—but it is always a melancholy month for me.”

A Poet and His Apples

The trees of Robert Frost are alive and well—again—in South Shaftsbury (and who knows where else)

Written by Ellen Williams | April 30, 2013

Robert Frost's Snow apple

At the Robert Frost Stone House Museum in South Shaftsbury—his Vermont residence from 1920 to 1928—an ancient and magisterially gnarled Snow apple tree presides over the grounds. Placed, probably by the poet’s own hands, in a commanding spot directly behind the house, it was the only one of its kind among the hundreds of apple trees planted on the 80-acre farm during the 1920s. The rest of the orchard, which Frost envisioned as “a new Garden of Eden with a thousand apple trees of some unforbidden variety,” was set behind the barn and populated with McIntosh, Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, and Red Astrachan trees.

Farming & Feasting with the Robinsons: Summer

Written by Jesse Natha North | June 01, 2009

Dairy Farm Sketches

When George Gershwin wrote “Summertime, and the living is easy...” one gets the impression he wasn’t really thinking of the farming population. In the words of Ann Robinson Minturn in August 1862, “there be those whose souls rejoice in the yellowness of their butter, the whiteness of their bread, and the exceeding cleanliness of their houses... to sit with the hands folded is an abomination–and such women should I think be farmers wives.”

Revisiting the Traditional

Written by Ginger Nickerson | June 01, 2007

photos of farmers cerca 1920

Imagine a place where 98% of households keep vegetable gardens, 97% have cows and poultry, 93% grow potatoes, 58% raise pigs and 54% have apple trees – all to provide food for the home. Imagine a place where maple syrup from the backyard provides sweetener for households, where hard cider from fresh apples provides continual refreshment, and where most local produce, berries and meat can be enjoyed year-round thanks to canning, pickling, and cellar storage.

Last Morsel—Roots on the Rails

Written by Charlie Hunter | March 01, 2011

llustration: The Handbook of Early American  Advertising Art, Dover Publications

On summer evenings in the garden in Weathersfield, I know it’s nearly time to call it a day when the train whistle blows; over the river, Amtrak’s Vermonter is about to cross the highway in Cornish. As I stand up, knees cracking from too-long bending over the rows of carrots that want thinning, I think about the train on its trek north to St. Albans, and how tomorrow it will head south to Washington, DC. Back and forth, more than 600 miles, each day, every day.

Mark Kurlansky's "The Food of a Younger Land"

The Eating Habits of Americans (from the 1930s WPA chronicles)

| December 01, 2012

Photos from the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

In the 1930s, writers for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) chronicled the eating habits of Americans. Here are some Vermont excerpts, as collected in Mark Kurlansky’s The Food of a Younger Land:

Vermont Heirlooms

Plants with (more than one) story to tell

Written by Tatiana Schreiber | June 01, 2012

Chester Beans

My plan was to write an interesting story about a few vegetables that have a Vermont heritage—that is, they were grown in Vermont over many years or were thought to have first been developed commercially by Vermont farmers or breeders. I was thinking of Gilfeather® turnips, Green Mountain potatoes, Chester beans, and Roy’s Calais Flint corn, as examples.

Little did I realize, however, how murky these waters would be.

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.

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