A culinary online center dedicated to promoting the importance and the joy of American home cooking with an emphasis on local products and talent, celebrating the unique spirit and energy of the new food world ethos, especially in Vermont.
I love quotes that add meaning to my life. Here are a few to live by:
Americans who have been to France and come home craving a reminder of their magical European experience, love Vermont cheeses.
â€”Allison Hooper, founder, VT Butter & Cheese Creamery
Practice not cleaning your plate: it will help you eat less in short term and develop self-control in the long term.
Sweet taste buds develop before all others, thatâ€™s why small children love sweets.
Donâ€™t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of milk.
My rule of thumb is, when in doubt, cook more than you think you may need.
â€”Marian Cunningham, from Learning to Cook
When the Farm is a School: Shelburne Farms
My last two posts featured the work of a Vermont farm to school organization, Common Roots, and a farm program at the Hotchkiss School in northern Connecticut. They are two good examples of the trend in education that uses farms and farmers to teach the importance of good environmental practices, as well as the joys of healthy food, and stewardship of the land. Let me know what you think of my recent experience at Shelburne Farms, a leader in the movement of farm to school education and a valued neighbor in close-by, Shelburne, Vermont. This is the third in a series on the importance of farm to school initiatives.Â
I couldnâ€™t do justice to the theme of farm to school if I didnâ€™t include one of the most remarkable farms in Vermont and possibly of all New England, Shelburne Farms.
My Private TreasureÂ
Because itâ€™s in my neighborhood, I think of Shelburne Farms as my own private treasure. My Chittenden Valley friends feel the same way. We hike and cross country ski on the property, we bring our children and grandchildren for visits to the Farm Barn where they can see an array of farm animals, pet them and even, if you arrive at the right moment, milk a cow. Guests arenâ€™t â€śallowedâ€ť to visit me without a trip to this special place. Besides watching the justifiably famous cheddar cheese being made, buying fresh out-of-the-oven bread fromÂ O Bread BakeryÂ and enjoying a quick lunch at the Farm Cart, we can celebrate a birthday, a special family event or just a beautiful day with an elegant dinner at The Inn at Shelburne Farms.
But Shelburne Farms is not just a special destination for family and friends. It is a leader in farm education. It has been doing this since the Webb family made the decision in 1972 to become an independent non-profit organization, a natural continuation of the inspired concept of their great-grandparents,Â William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb.
A Model Agricultural Estate
Shelburne Farms began life as a model agricultural estate one hundred and thirty three years ago. Its owners, William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb, sought to create a farm on the banks of Lake Champlain that would set the standard for generations to come. Today, it is the center of such enlightened thinking about the value of farm education that it often hosts educators and administrators from many countries overseas as well as throughout the United States. They come seeking information to implement similar programs in their own communitiesâ€”and to be inspired!
One of the contributions that Shelburne Farms is well-known for is the multiplicity of workshops, seminars and lectures sponsored out of the desire to create an understanding of the environment and the necessity of preserving the local landscape. Â Because farms are a major part of the Vermont landscape, Shelburne Farms stays true to its original mandate and to the dream of the Webb family for three generations, and continues to promote and teach the importance of farming.
A Leader in Raising Awareness
Partnering with organizations around the stateâ€”Farm to Plate, NOFA-VT (Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont), Vermont FEED (Food Education Every Day), Slow Food Vermont, Pasture to Palate, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council, to name only a fewâ€”and working with various city and state agencies, Shelburne Farms is unquestionably a leader in the important work of raising awareness about healthy food, good nutrition, the importance of local and organic. With the help of city, state and federal agencies, it supports the important role that small and independent farms play in sustaining a healthy environment.
Vermont Farm-Based Education Forum
My most recent trip to Shelburne Farms was a perfect example of how large a role they play in growing farm education community awareness. On October 22 and 23, Shelburne Farms hosted a conference on agritourism, Vermont Farm-Based Education Forum: Agritourism, Education & Economics on Your Farm. Listening to the stories from 140 farmers from all over the state, as well as the rest of New England and beyond, was an eye-opener. I had no idea there were so many farms that offer B&B accommodations, or that it was possible to visit and learn how to shear sheep, make wool into yarn, bake bread, age cheese, boil maple sap into syrup, plant wheat, plough with draft horses, raise chickens, and slaughter your own pigsâ€”the list could go on and onâ€”at so many farms throughout the country.
Conversations with Farmers
Not only was it an energizing experience causing me to wonder if I hadnâ€™t chosen the wrong profession, but, it raised the bar as far as the word â€śentrepreneur” is concerned. The workshops underscored what I have recognized in my many conversations with farmers and farm educators, state agricultural administrators, and local food retailers.
The creativity that it takes to run a farm today is akin to the creativity that I saw in the art world four decades ago in New York City. Then it was young, talented artists willing to risk everything to win an exhibition in an important SoHo gallery. For the young farmers and food entrepreneurs here in Vermont and the rest of New England, it is all about producing excellent food and living a lifestyle that nourishes in ways that money canâ€™t buy, while helping to educate others in the importance of land management and environmental initiatives that may one day save the planet.
I expected bearded men in overalls and mud-stained boots to be the attendees. Instead, the majority of the farmers were women. And the array of bright scarves, chic footwear and well-coifed heads was a surprise. Iâ€™d heard that women outnumber men in the category of new farmers in Vermont, but it didnâ€™t hit home until I saw the many women attendees at the workshops, all eager to hear more about what they could do to augment and embellish the farms they loved. Educating the public to the joys of farming was on everyoneâ€™s mind but these were also smart farmers who understood the monetary value of educational programs. Not only could the programs provide extra revenue, they often meant employing a few more local people, a benefit to the community.
Iâ€™m inspired by the words of Alec Webb, President of Shelburne Farms, who wrote recently, â€śTogether we are cultivating change for a better world and a more hopeful future.â€ť Â The talent Iâ€™d seen at the agritourism workshops moved me. I like being part of the wave of enthusiasm about farming by writing about it. To make a positive difference, not only in the world of healthy food, but also in the world of environmental stewardship seems close to my dream of doing something positive for the world. As Alec Webb says, â€śTogether we are are cultivating changeâ€¦â€ť one small farm at a time.
P.S. Be sure to readÂ Farm to School: Not Just a SloganÂ and Fairfield Farm at The Hotchkiss School: Where Agriculture & Academics Meet.Â
Posted: 11-16-2013SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG’S FEED
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