• Editor’s Note Winter 2008

    Editor’s Note Winter 2008

    Although this magazine is young, we who put it together each season are beginning to notice a thread running through it: that of the old. In many of the stories that have appeared in our first three issues, there are references to our Vermont farmer ancestors and to the various agricultural pursuits and culinary experiments they engaged in. To be honest, this wasn’t planned.

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  • Biodynamics and Me

    Biodynamics and Me

    I have never thought of myself as a “spiritual” person. Although I have much admiration for the values and ethical traditions associated with the secular Judaism I was raised in, I have tended to eschew the organized aspect of religion. My secular upbringing did not prevent me, however, from noticing that the world around me was spectacularly complex and beautiful. The littlest things (a spider’s web!) inspired my utmost appreciation and respect. Later, I channeled this appreciation in the direction of science, trying to understand life processes through the study of biology and botany, microbiology and biochemistry.

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  • Is Local Food a Frugal Choice?

    Is Local Food a Frugal Choice?

    If you’re reading this magazine, you’ve probably seen one of those lists that explain all the great reasons to buy local food. I’ve seen them so many times I can recite the reasons by heart: local food tastes better, it keeps family farmers in business, it’s better for the environment. But here’s an item I’ve never seen on one of those lists: local food costs less. That’s because many people—myself included—assume that buying local food means spending more money per item. We believe there must be a higher cost to something that represents an investment in our health, the environment and the local economy.

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  • A Community Buys a Farm

    A Community Buys a Farm

    Robin McDermott is gazing towards the Mad River across a field dusted with early November snow. The frozen grass crunches beneath our feet as we walk past an old milking barn, standing huge and empty now for 40 years. Several acres of good agricultural soil, once carefully maintained, now lie fallow. “We need more farmers here,” McDermott says simply. As a founding member of the Mad River Localvores, she should know.

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  • Pete's Good Eaters

    Pete's Good Eaters

    In the garage-sized farm stand where summer customers palmed pudgy tomatoes and grabbed up bunches of basil, the red manure spreader was parked for the winter. It was mid-November, and the plumes of celosias and sprawling nasturtiums that had been growing on the farm stand’s eye-catching “living roof” were a black, tangled thatch. But despite these concessions to the season at Peter Johnson’s farm in Craftsbury Village, there was lettuce growing in the greenhouse, workers making sauerkraut in the barn, and purple sacks on a cart, waiting to be picked up by local CSA members on their commute home.

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  • Beyond Maple Syrup

    Beyond Maple Syrup

    On Sunday mornings during my childhood in Burlington, my father would make heaping stacks of pancakes on the wood stove. My sister and I eagerly awaited the moment when we would pour dark amber maple syrup on our plates to make our doughy boats float in a pool of sweetness. As a child, I took for granted that maple syrup, that quintessential Vermont ingredient, was an important part of the culture in my state. But today, a shift in ecological conditions thought to be triggered by global warming is pressuring ecosystems to move northward. If the southerly range of sugar maples migrates northward into Canada, a vital part of Vermont’s culture and economy will relocate with these valuable trees.

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  • Three Square—Winter 2008

    Three Square—Winter 2008

    Growing up in Vermont, I ate chokecherries, dandelions, venison, and tempura day lilies. When I returned recently, to live here full-time, I began to notice how often the conversation in Vermont turns to food. What’s for dinner? For the next few issues of Local Banquet, I’ll visit a variety of people at home, peer into their iceboxes, and find out what they’re eating and why. And because these can often be personal subjects, I’ve omitted last names.

    Mike likes to eat everything. “Meats, potatoes, vegetables. I like all vegetables. Me, I’m not a fussy eater.”

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  • Good Bye Rubarb Pie

    Good Bye Rubarb Pie

    Before I moved here, I always thought of Vermont as Holstein cows dotting a green rolling hillside, dairy barn in the middle ground. Say the word “Vermont” and I could smell maple syrup. Before I ever set foot in the Green Mountains, I associated them with food. Good food. And now, as I prepare to leave Vermont, my home for the past three and a half years, it is food I will miss.

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  • The Underground Garden

    The Underground Garden

    My good friend Robert King, who lives on Putney Mountain, built a root cellar in the 1970s on the hillside just south of his home. Easy access came from the gravel road, where he could drive his truck right up to the root cellar. The site was protected from the north wind and snow drifts. The door opened to the east, not the south where it would have received too much sun. Robert used the Scott Nearing simple stone construction method. First, pour concrete footings and then, using movable wooden frames, fill them with cement and rocks and let them dry. Then move the frames above the first-poured section and start again. It’s simple and practical.

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  • RAFFL, Loca, and Raw Milk Legislation

    RAFFL, Loca, and Raw Milk Legislation

    Raw milk cheeses aren’t the only “live” foods getting attention in Vermont these days. In January, Rural Vermont, a non-profit working for economic justice for Vermont farmers, plans to introduce legislation in the Statehouse that would enable farmers to sell more than 24 quarts of raw milk a day.

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  • Survival of the Rawest

    Survival of the Rawest

    Sometimes the food world offers bona fide drama made for “reality” TV. Survival of the Rawest is the working title for my imagined submission to the networks. This virtual “hit-show” is actually in production right now on small farms in the Northeast. And the subject is the clash of live foods with dead ones.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Better Be Beets

    Farmers' Kitchen—Better Be Beets

    Beets are one of the mightiest of all vegetables. Steamed, roasted, pickled, or raw, beets add color, flavor, and nutrition to any meal.

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A Community Buys a Farm

Kingsbury Farm

Written By

Caitlin Gildrien

Written on

December 01 , 2007

“We need more food here.”

Robin McDermott is gazing towards the Mad River across a field dusted with early November snow. The frozen grass crunches beneath our feet as we walk past an old milking barn, standing huge and empty now for 40 years. Several acres of good agricultural soil, once carefully maintained, now lie fallow.          

“We need more farmers here,” McDermott says simply. As a founding member of the Mad River Localvores, she should know.

McDermott got the idea for the Localvores at a conference of the Northeast Organic Farming Association in February 2006, and that summer the first Mad River Eat Local Challenge took place  For one week in September, 155 people pledged to eat as much local food as possible, and the movement has since grown: in 2007, 287 Mad River Localvores participated, as did Localvore groups in the Champlain Valley, Central Vermont, the Upper Valley, and Brattleboro. By now, the Mad River Localvores are used to searching out farms and farmers for local food.

This year, however, in partnership with a number of community organizations, the Mad River Localvores are actually creating a farm.

The Kingsbury Community Farm Initiative is a coalition that includes the Mad River Localvores, the Vermont Land Trust, Friends of the Mad River, the Mad River Planning District, the Mad River Path Association, the Warren Conservation Commission, and the sustainable design/build school Yestermorrow. Together, this group has arranged for the historic 20-acre Kingsbury Farm in Warren to be conserved as a multi-use agricultural, educational, and recreational community center.

The Kingsburys, a long-time dairy farming family, retired in 1964 but stayed on the land until just a few years ago, leasing it to local farmers for hay. When the property went on the market, local people wondered what might become of it. After a year or so with no takers, the price began to drop. That’s when McDermott and other members of what would become the Initiative began to talk seriously about finding a way to purchase the farm.         

“Everyone kept saying it was unrealistic,” McDermott remembers, “but I thought, ‘If we don’t try, who knows what will happen to this land?’” The group gathered for meetings and called in advice from experts around the state, including Pete Johnson of Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury and Allan “Buzz” Ferver of the Intervale Foundation in Burlington. The general consensus: this is good agricultural land and should be preserved as such.          

The town of Warren agreed. In mid-September of this year, the Warren Conservation Commission agreed to contribute up to $125,000 for conservation and public access easements to preserve the property for “agriculture, recreation, education, and community events.” The Mad River Conservation Partnership (a group comprised of the Mad River Valley Planning District, the Friends of the Mad River, and the Vermont Land Trust) also agreed to make a substantial contribution to the effort, and the Vermont Land Trust itself stepped in with the rest. The deal—$495,000 in the end—was closed early in November, and the Land Trust has given the group a year to make a plan and find new owners. (As a rule, the Land Trust prefers not to own land itself.)

In addition to the milking barn, the Kingsbury Farm includes a five-bay garage, a well-kept farmhouse, and a milk house that would make a perfect roadside farm stand. The farmhouse also has a sizable basement that holds considerable promise as a root cellar. The acreage—nine acres of which are considered “good agricultural soils”—rolls back to a lovely beach on the river and stretches around nearby Mac’s Convenience store.          

“The farmers at the farmers’ market here sell out every week,” McDermott says. Demand for local food is fast outstripping supply, and some of the farmers at the Mad River Farmers’ Market come from as far away as Jay Peak. With the popularity of the Localvores increasing and land values skyrocketing, keeping farms as farms can only become more important.         

As for what the Kingsbury Community Farm would grow or raise? Nobody is sure quite yet. One idea is to focus on storage crops like carrots and beets, to make use of that big root cellar, or even to have a community root cellar that stretches out the local food season as long as possible. Another idea is to pair with the Vermont Milk Company to make the farm a demonstration dairy and convert the farmhouse kitchen into an industrial cheese-making training center. The Initiative is dedicated to maintaining public access to the river, while the Mad River Path Association would like to link the land to nearby pedestrian paths. At the same time, the group is hoping that the final plan will include some space for community gardens and other community activities.         

An appraisal in mid-February of this year will determine the value of the property once the easements are in place and development is no longer a possibility. It remains to be seen whether the eventual owners will be farmers, a non-profit group, the community, or some combination; none of the people currently working on the project is a farmer, so they’re soliciting ideas and interested parties from all sides. Regardless of the final details, the Kingsbury Community Farm looks to be a model of community involvement in agriculture—and a novel way to get more local food into that community.

More information on the Kingsbury Farm project can be found at kingsburymarketgarden.com

Photo by Caitin O'Brien

About the Author

Caitlin Gildrien

Caitlin Gildrien

Caitlin Gildrien is a writer and graphic designer in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. With her husband and two small children, she also grows several acres of organic vegetables and medicinal herbs on their 200-year-old farmstead.

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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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