Attending Agritourism, Education & Economics on your farm forum at Shelburne Farms has proven stimulating. Not only drinking in the view of expanses of pasture dotted with Brown Swiss cows grazing with the lake behind them, framed by the Adirondack Mountains.
But also giving us an opportunity to gather with colleagues and tour farms like Bread and Butter Farm, Champlain Orchards, and Trevin Farms that are working hard to integrate visitor experiences with their food production in order to not only make their farm successful, but to build community.
And to ponder some of the bigger questions about agricultural literacy. Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross noted that 98% of Americans have no first hand association with agriculture. It doesn’t seem possible when one flashes to driving through the Champlain Valley earlier in the day. Or thinking back to any cross-country flights. Or our day to day life.
Up on our hill hoses are being coiled and extra hay distributed to supplement animals still out on pasture. This appears to be the week that water wants to become ice. Cover crops are following on the heels of chard, beet, carrot and turnip harvests. Remay is stashed for the now nightly covering of the salad greens. And we’ll begin planting for 2014! Cover crops have been turned in and the garlic space is ready for the lovely seed garlic to be planted in the next week.
What stories can we share that will bring the 98% closer? What gestures can we make to exchange urban yearning for authentic farm experiences for family farms’ need for cash income? What questions should we be asking? And what if what we know today of agri-tourism in Vermont is just the tip of the iceberg?