• Editor's Note Winter 2017

    Editor's Note Winter 2017

    “If you’re going to Québec City, you have to visit a cabane à sucre,” said Claire. And her good advice was confirmed as soon as my partner and I walked into Cabane à Sucre Leclerc in Neuville on a chilly, snowy evening.

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  • Set the Table with Poutine

    Set the Table with Poutine

    I grew up in California, in a world of dayboat salmon, tofu, and spinach salad. I only became vaguely aware of the odd sounding “poutine” when I moved to Vermont. French fries with gravy and cheese curds? I mean, that all sounds weird enough without including the word “curds” at the end.

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  • Along the Route des Vins

    Along the Route des Vins

    In the first unpredictable weeks of spring, workers at Québec’s Léon Courville vineyard lay the bones of 1,200 tiny bonfires between the vines.

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  • So Close And Yet So Far

    So Close And Yet So Far

    Ask people in agriculture about the challenges of selling Vermont food in Québec, and folks tend to have the same first reaction.

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  • Au Marché

    Au Marché

    On a sunny, crisp day in early September, a friend and I meandered over the border to visit three Québec farmers’ markets.

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  • Neighbors to the North—Of Loaves and Land

    Neighbors to the North—Of Loaves and Land

    Every week at Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex, six tons of flour is mixed, kneaded, and transformed into 18,000 loaves of bread.

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  • Neighbors to the North—Seeding Relationships

    Neighbors to the North—Seeding Relationships

    Some 20 years ago, when Tom Stearns of High Mowing Seeds was living in Holland, Vermont, just on the border with Québec, he met Laurier Chabot at a biodynamic agriculture conference.

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  • Neighbors to the North—A Vintner Mentor

    Neighbors to the North—A Vintner Mentor

    When David and Linda Boyden started Boyden Valley Winery in Cambridge in 1996, they had zero experience in viticulture or oenology, save for a class that David had taken at Cornell University.

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  • Neighbors to the North—A Plethora of Produce

    Neighbors to the North—A Plethora of Produce

    Imagine two Caesar salads: Both are tossed in that classic salty dressing and topped with croutons, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. And both salads have, as their base, crisp and crunchy romaine lettuce.

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  • Neighbors to the North—Fields  of  Gold

    Neighbors to the North—Fields of Gold

    Jack Lazor called me at 8:00 p.m. the other night, which surprised me. I’m used to dairy farmer hours, and 8:00 p.m is past bedtime for most dairymen and women I’ve known.

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  • Neighbors to the North—A Porcine Quest

    Neighbors to the North—A Porcine Quest

    Vermont Salumi, a small company making fresh sausages and hand-tied salami in the Italian tradition, is based just outside Plainfield.

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  • To Market, to Bank

    To Market, to Bank

    Québecois grower Jean-Martin Fortier draws a distinction between a good living and a good life.  “’A good living’ mostly refers to how much money you make,” he tells me during a phone call. A good life, in contrast, takes into account “how your time is spent, and to what purpose.”

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  • My Family’s French Canadian Kitchen

    My Family’s French Canadian Kitchen

    Whenever I catch a whiff of cinnamon or cloves, my mind drifts to my mother’s kitchen and the French Canadian food traditions that shaped how I learned to cook.

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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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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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