• Publishers' Note—Fall 2016

    Publishers' Note—Fall 2016

    For the past several years now, we’ve composted our garden and kitchen scraps. With increased success, we’ve watched apple cores and tomato vines metamorphose into a rich, dark, crumbly hummus.

    Continue Reading

  • Hügelkultur: A Rotting Resource

    Hügelkultur: A Rotting Resource

    Hügelkultur is a centuries-old sustainable method of building raised garden beds in a way that mimics the natural succession of the forest floor.

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  • Set the Table with…Figs

    Set the Table with…Figs

    Figs may not seem like a Vermont kind of crop—the fruits are more associated with warmer climates. However, one local Vermonter has dug into his Italian roots and has been successfully growing figs for five years.

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  • Flock Dance:

    Flock Dance:

    Yesenia Major—who runs Vermont Shepherd sheep dairy with her husband, David—is a dancer at heart. With Spanish, Dominican, and El Salvadorian roots, she grew up in communities where “we were born dancing.”

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  • Vermont Apples: Lost and Found

    Vermont Apples: Lost and Found

    Roaming the hills and back roads in Vermont at this time of year, you find plenty of apple trees. Most are wild trees, also called seedling trees, spread by wildlife or from dropped apples.

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  • Regenerative Agriculture

    Regenerative Agriculture

    In 2012, new farmers Jesse McDougall and his wife, Cally, decided not to spray the kinds of chemical pesticides and fertilizers that had long been applied to their hayfields in Shaftsbury.

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  • Crafty Cultivation

    Crafty Cultivation

    The old adage says, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” but the small farmer’s credo would be a lot more specific: “A sore back will get you scheming for a better way.”

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  • Small Acts Bring Permaculture Out of the Backyard and into the Community

    Small Acts Bring Permaculture Out of the Backyard and into the Community

    On August 28, 2011, when Tropical Storm Irene hit parts of Vermont with almost 10 inches of rain, the waters of the Saxtons River rose up in an uncontrollable torrent of historic proportions.

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  • Slow and Steady: Vermont’s “Snail of Approval”

    Slow and Steady: Vermont’s “Snail of Approval”

    “Snail of Approval” is a program of Slow Food Vermont. It’s a certification awarded to restaurants, bars, food and beverage producers, stores, and markets that have been deemed “outstanding among peers” and that contribute to “the quality, authenticity, and sustainability of Vermont’s food supply.”

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Magnificent Mushrooms

    Farmers' Kitchen—Magnificent Mushrooms

    Many of us are brought up to fear mushrooms. Often to the point of never thinking of them as the wonderful, delicious, and nutritious food they are.

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  • Release


    I began farming in 2008, moving from books to hands-on experience raising crops, sheep, dairy goats, and poultry.

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Publishers' Note—Fall 2016

Publishers' Note—Fall 2016

Written on

August 17 , 2016

For the past several years now, we’ve composted our garden and kitchen scraps. With increased success, we’ve watched apple cores and tomato vines metamorphose into a rich, dark, crumbly hummus. As participants in this process, we’ve observed with amazement that our soils comprise a varied and complex world unto themselves. And the cycle of life is on full display as we transform this year’s waste into the foundation for next year’s growth.

This process of breaking down and building up is also evident in the epic formation of our topsoil—the 2 to 8 inches of the Earth’s crust on which we walk, play, and work. Taking more than 100 years, and by some accounts 500 years, to form a mere inch, this living structure nurtures and supports all life. It is home to microorganisms, small insects and vertebrates, bacteria, carbon, and water—all vital ingredients to sustain life.

We often hear about human beings having a negative impact on the environment, but humanity can have a positive impact, too. In this issue we explore three positive ways that our actions can build, enhance, and preserve our soil, the foundation of all life.

In our last publishers’ note, we touched on a practice known as regenerative agriculture; in Vermont the legislature has been exploring the idea of a certification process for farms where this kind of agriculture is practiced. In this artice, writer and farmer Katie Spring digs deeper into what is meant by regenerative agriculture and its many benefits.

We offer an article on Hügelkultur, a centuries-old gardening practice that takes its cue from the decomposition that occurs naturally in forests. The article chronicles author Angie Knost’s experiences and insights using this system in her own backyard. By ceding our control to nature’s perfect system, we can turn poor soil and unproductive lands into beneficial and valuable ones.

Tropical Storm Irene, in 2011, provided a wake-up call and an opportunity for a group of folks in southern Vermont; click here for the article. Small Acts Permaculture (a group that we are members of) joined with federal and state entities and the local conservation commission to plant a riparian buffer on three parcels of flooded land in Saxtons River. By minimizing erosion and keeping soil in its place, these efforts will pay off by providing a verdant and durable habitat for wildlife while also protecting downstream land from unwanted sediment buildup.

Longtime and respected Vermont farmer Jack Lazor, writing about his love for the soil in the summer NOFA-Vermont newsletter, shares these thoughts, which we fully support: “The greatest lesson that I have learned in all this time is that the Earth comes first. Be generous in your dealings with Mother Earth. Be a giver instead of a taker. You will be paid back in interest many times over if you love the land and do right by it.”

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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 ties into larger questions of sustainability and the future of our food supply. 

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