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Appreciating Neighbors

Photo of the Farleys (with Laura, middle) courtesy of Green Mountain Girls Farm
Photo of the Farleys (with Laura, middle).

Written By

Mari Omland and Laura Olsen

Written on

February 22 , 2017

This is a slightly adapted excerpt from the May 23, 2016 e-newsletter sent by Mari Omland and Laura Olsen, who run a diversified vegetable and pastured livestock operation in Northfield. We share it to illustrate that farmers—despite their reputation for being solitary and individualistic—are often more steeped in community and connected with their neighbors than most of us. Perhaps, using different names and different places, any Vermont farmer could have penned this reflection.

“Neighbor” and “community” are two words that show up frequently in our weekly farm blog. When it comes to community supported agriculture, it isn’t all about a “CSA” or “farm share.” As we go back through the week-by-week accounts, the community support from our neighbors is a consistent weave—the threads varied and colorful!

It started the day we first looked at the property. Across the street a large old maple was being taken down, and this gave us the chance to meet Kati and Tad. In subsequent months, Tad and his tractor broke ground for our first garden, and his brushhog helped the goats convert the chokecherry and poplar saplings into a mix of grass, forbs, legumes, and other lushness that now makes our pasture.

Kati patiently answered our questions about perennials and fruit trees she had planted. She led us to the fantastic network of trails her dad, Bill, had created and their clan had maintained, each tour replete with place names, introductions to neighbors, and tutorials in local and natural history. And she welcomed our herds and flocks to her grass—which we all loved—and came to the rescue when animal escapes or fence tangles occurred.

Then there’s the Farley family. Magen inaugurated our barn with her horse, Funnyface. She and her parents, Donna and Mark, interrupted their normal routine of shopping at Shaw’s approximately 410 weeks ago and have gotten up to 70 percent of their calories from the farm since! When hail lay thick around the tomatoes and tomatillos on the evening of July 16, 2009, the whole family came down to rake the ice from the tender vegetation. Mark has volunteered his “sturdy” carpentry skills and even sturdier math and computer knowledge along the way, and Donna has been unstoppable in sharing her enthusiasm about the farm, from meeting lots of folks at the farm stand and showing them the ropes to dropping everything and making pie crust when the WCAX news crew was heading down to do a story on pasture-raised lard. Where would we be without their loyalty and encouragement?

Ray and Hannah shared information on their guesthouse, and Ray has made sure our winter bedded packs have plenty of sawdust. Liz and Roy wove their way into all of our hearts, helping to pot up hundreds of tomatoes and exercising their green thumbs when we fell behind in early years. They too have introduced their loved ones to the farm with special gatherings here, and together with Kati, they have helped us to host Scrag Mountain Music’s spectacular evenings of music.

Rodney and Theresa have been our go-to’s for the few but intense moments when we’ve had to put animals down in emergencies. We can still see their teenage sons, Rion and Casey, using all their strength and flexibility to assemble our first hoop house. Pam, Jacob, MacKenzie, and Cooper keep a close watch on our land and animals from across the street. Morgan, Brock, and Amelia have all mowed and worked farm events. And Katie, although no longer living in the neighborhood, gave us a nod from Boston on her blog, Grumpy When Hungry.

And then there are all of you who wave or stop to encourage us. And there are the skilled and dedicated youth (and not-so-young-but-hardy!) who have been willing to work hard here. Tessa was one of our first hires. Anyone wanting to get a sense of all she added to this place should glance at the rock walls she put up with Gary, her dad—at least two heart-shape rocks are there to remind all of us what the working landscape demands.

Speaking of Gary, he and his skid steer make easy the removal of our winter “bedded pack” from the barn to our compost windrows. And there, in the hot compost, our zillions of microbial neighbors do their work, transforming our community-wide efforts into soils that sequester carbon, water, and nutrients, making possible even more nourishing future harvests.

We are grateful for all the support and aim for reciprocity. We take being responsible neighbors seriously. And we believe that we wouldn’t be here without the help of our neighbors.

Thanks to all!

About the Author

Mari Omland and Laura Olsen

Mari Omland and Laura Olsen

The Green Mountain Girls welcome you to “Eat, Stay, and Farm” with them in Northfield. You can find their pasture-raised meats, veggies, eggs, and milk at their farm stand, as part of a farmstay.

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