• Editor's Note Fall 2015

    Editor's Note Fall 2015

    I’m writing this in early August, on the heels of Vermont Open Farm Week—seven days during which 75 farms, orchards, vineyards, distilleries, and nurseries opened their doors to the public for a concentrated week of public outreach.

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  • Aronia and Elderberry: Thy Medicine

    Aronia and Elderberry: Thy Medicine

    Aronia and elderberry are two fruits—native to Vermont and other places in the eastern United States—that are getting noticed by health-conscious consumers. The word on the street these days is “nutraceutical”—in this case, referring to berries that aren’t just nutritious but also have medicinal properties.

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  • Set the Table with Garlic

    Set the Table with Garlic

    If you search the word garlic online, you may end up believing it is the panacea for all that ails us. Garlic was given to soldiers and athletes in ancient Greece to promote vigor.

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  • An Early Abenaki Harvest: The Green Corn Celebration

    An Early Abenaki Harvest: The Green Corn Celebration

    Traditionally, summer was a time of constant and existential worry for Abenaki farmers. Vermont’s notoriously fickle weather inundates the fields in June and parches them in July.

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  • Frankly Speaking

    Frankly Speaking

    Hot dogs are the epitome of mass-produced, questionably sourced food product. They are the emulsified bits and scraps of mechanically separated cartilage, tendons, and other meat undesirables that don’t belong anywhere else.

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  • Royally Local

    Royally Local

    The Chelsea Royal Diner’s 1939 dining car has been in its present location on Route 9 just outside Brattleboro since 1987, but today it’s home to a successful demonstration of the modern resurgence in serving locally grown food. Todd Darrah, enjoying his 25th year owning and operating the diner, has found a way to combine low diner prices with the high principles of the local food movement.

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  • Sheep Dairies

    Sheep Dairies

    Vermont is famous for cow dairies, but as the market for artisanal cheese has boomed, goat and sheep milk cheeses have entered the mix. Over the past 20 years, a number of farmers have launched goat dairies for farmstead cheese and for fluid milk sales. Some are former cow operations that switched business models when cow milk prices plummeted. Others began with dairy goats from the start.

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  • Market Trends

    Market Trends

    Over the past 10 years farmers’ markets in Vermont have burst forth like a backyard garden in July. Currently there are 63 markets in the Vermont Farmers’ Market Association, and a dozen or so that aren’t members. But every now and then you hear people wonder whether farmers’ markets have peaked in popularity, or strayed from their original purpose by offering more crafts and prepared foods.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Indian Summer

    Farmers' Kitchen—Indian Summer

    We chose “Anjali”—a Sanskrit word meaning “offerings to the deities”—as the name of our farm to honor Lini’s Indian heritage. And since moving to our South Londonderry farm on the winter solstice of 2000, we have grown mixed vegetables, medicinal herbs, blueberries, raspberries, and hops in harmony with our ecosystem and the cosmos.

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  • What Is Fresh?

    What Is Fresh?

    Ask Vermont food enthusiasts what they love about local food and most of us say, “It’s fresh.” The link between fresh flavor and local food is so strong that the terms often appear as one: “Fresh local food!”

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Editor's Note Fall 2015

Dairy farmer picking up potatoes on his farm near Fairfield, Vermont, September 1941.
Dairy farmer picking up potatoes on his farm near Fairfield, Vermont, September 1941

Written By

Caroline Abels

Written on

August 19 , 2015

I’m writing this in early August, on the heels of Vermont Open Farm Week—seven days during which 75 farms, orchards, vineyards, distilleries, and nurseries opened their doors to the public for a concentrated week of public outreach. Similarly, later this month, Vermont Breakfast on the Farm will launch, bringing visitors to local dairy farms for a tour and a hearty breakfast.

Some of the farms participating in these two initiatives rarely receive visitors. Others see people all the time: when customers come by to pick up CSA shares, purchase raw milk, buy food from the farm stand, or stay overnight as B&B guests.

It’s heartening when local food enthusiasts make an effort to see the places where their food comes from. It can certainly be fun to visit a farm, but it also takes a bit of preparation: finding the farm, finding the proper boots to wear, and in some cases even finding the time. Farmers, for their part, tend to be grateful when folks show an interest in their work by stopping by. Farming can be isolating; having guests is a welcome respite from daily chores.

But farm visits can also be challenging for both customers and farmers. If you’ve never been on a farm before, you might be taken aback by parts of it that don’t look so good, by seeing animals in stalls, or by noticing farm machinery when you expected a more pastoral scene. Your visual experience might clash with your longtime notions of what a farm should look like or how it should operate.

And for farmers, having visitors can sometimes be a struggle. On a busy day, they may have to take time to explain to visitors why those animals are in stalls, or what that farm machinery does, or why they haven’t had time to tidy out the back of the barn. Visitors might offer to help with chores, not knowing that farm work is often highly specialized, and their offer will have to be rebuffed.Misunderstandings or differing opinions about animal welfare may cause tension.

I once heard a conventional dairy farmer tell an amusing story of a visitor to his farm. The visitor was enjoying what he saw on his tour. But when the farmer began talking about the artificial insemination of his cows, the visitor became angry, saying, “See? This is why so many people are getting cancer! Everything is artificial!

To understand farming, consumers must recognize that certain practices are in place for certain reasons. We should not make assumptions about those practices based on our first visual reaction, but should find out the details before forming an opinion. Farmers, for their part, will hopefully always be grateful for the interest people take in their farms, no matter how unfamiliar people are with farming. Patience and compassion are key. There is no shortcut to understanding, or explaining, an agricultural system.

We do our best at Local Banquet to help foster relationships between eaters and farmers. So enjoy this issue, and then, perhaps, pull out an old pair of boots and go visit a local farm!

About the Author

Caroline Abels

Caroline Abels

Caroline Abels is the editor of Local Banquet and the founder-editor of Humaneitarian.org, a website that inspires people to buy and eat humanely raised meat.

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