Thursday, January 28, 2016
I went to the Vermont Farm Show yesterday as I do most every year. If you haven't been, today is the last day for this year. Don't take the kids if you want they to see animals. There are 3 goats and a Morgan horse. Get going anyway! There was an exceptional crowd and I was surprised to see so many old farmers, a few still wearing dungaree frocks, using canes, walkers, wheelchairs, getting support from wives, sisters, children, but getting to the show to see automatic milkers and tractors and round balers that probably cost more than the first farm they ever owned.
I got there at about 11 and noted the number of government agencies that had displays. I stopped at the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education booth to see if they had resolved any of the issues I had with them several years ago. They hadn't. A young guy bumped into me and said "I have a couple questions for you." Before I could say I wasn't manning the booth he asked the questions and I told him I couldn't help him, didn't work there, didn't have the info. He said he had been there twice since 9 AM looking for someone and there was no one to speak with. I referred him to another USDA booth but that didn't work either as I watched him walk away.
My gripe with SARE has always been that they give lots of tax dollars for research projects but never require good follow up documentation of what people use the $$ for and what success/problems are discovered that could save other people some money by not recreating the wheel. My negative feelings were supported recently as Channel 3 covered a grant for growing a type of switchgrass that can be made into pellets and burned to make heat, etc. I saw a similar project granted in 2008 in Cabot that went nowhere. New ideas do come from experimentation but I don't think we need another ethanol program.
When I finished with the show I headed south on Route 7, then 22A to get to Addison 4 Corners and head for Dead Creek to see if I could spot any snowy owls on the vast fields of Addison County and the slangs that eventually enter Otter Creek. I hadn't been there in almost 2 years and it was a surprise. Agriculture in Vermont really is changing. From Shelburne south, the number of vineyards was interesting. As I got to 22A, the number of farms that have gone out of business was a different kind of surprise and it was sad to see old houses and barns abandoned and falling apart. Fields of solar arrays have interrupted the landscape, extremely large, expensive-for- Vermont houses dot the hilltops and there is a very minor number of wind turbines. The turbine thing is a surprise because the wind always blows down there.
When I see a farm that is a farm no more, I often wonder if there is anything we can do to help that type of agriculture retool itself for a different agricultural endeavor. Apparently no one has figured that out yet. I am a big advocate for crops related to the new start up artisan beer breweries or the distilleries, the specialty foods industry, the new vineyards that produce their own wine, the specialty cheese makers. What I don't have is the answer. Do you? ; ; ; ; ; ;
Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the gray sky is offering up occasional snowflakes and looking like it might snow later.
The Vermont Gardener
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