Wednesday, September 17, 2014

the great vermont farm tour of 2014

Jake and I just got back from a trip to Massachusetts and Vermont, where fall has most definitely arrived. While in Vermont, we had a great time visiting farms around Burlington, Montpelier, and Hardwick, eating amazing local food, and enjoying the faintest hints of fall foliage. If we had only packed one more layer, everything would've been perfect.

My brother arranged for us to meet with several farmers, including Richard Wiswall, co-owner of Cate Farm and author of a fantastic book called The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook. Richard gave us a tour of his farm, including some really cool greenhouse efficiencies that he created. He also offered some of the best farming advice I've heard: Figure out what you like to grow. Then figure out how to do it profitably. I guess that's what I'll be doing this winter.

space-efficient seeding setup (including a trough for potting soil with a trapdoor for loading from outside, which is barely visible on the far right side of the photo)
super-cool trolley car for moving seedling trays from one place to another, within or between greenhouses
We also skipped over to the Intervale, one of the oldest farm incubators in the country, where we got a 90-minute tour from Maggie, the Beginning Farmer Specialist. Maggie showed us the Intervale's facilities, including this simple but effective greens spinner, made from a washing machine:

I'm not totally sure why they took the outside off, but it still seemed to work pretty well.
At a bulletin board outside a general store somewhere in the Northeast Kingdom, I got a good idea for a farm event for next year:

We also went to the legendary Bread and Puppet Theater for a performance by some of Vermont's oldest and most radical puppeteers. These are people who really understand that politics and entertainment can be one, and they should always be accompanied by food.

the crowd gathers for free bread and hot tea before the show
During the weekend, we also had time for some less educational endeavors, including helping my brother abuse a tractor, a trailer, and his truck all at the same time in order to bring some huge cherry logs to the sawmill. The only things harmed were one tire (flat), one axle (broken), and one tailgate (bent). That's entertainment, Vermont-style!

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