October 09, 2013

Farmer Training Program Update

I've got to say that Vermont is different little state. I often compare it to Nelson in BC's Kootenays or Vancouver Island- in both looks and character. The mountains, ski culture, subaru's everywhere, and especially the big dramatic views over the lake remind me of the the Georgia Strait or Slocan Lake. I read that years ago, the Burlington business association tried branding Vermont as "the West Coast of New England" didn't catch on.

Vermonter's seem to have a unconventionally "common-sense" attitude about their environment and economy. I'd say that in Vermont, right wing and left wing have wrapped so far around they’ve met in the middle and are carpooling to the farmer’s market.

Vermont has the highest percentage of organic farms by state in the USA and also the highest consumption of organic and local food in the country. So it's a good place to learn about food and farming.

My program has been going really well. I have loved the emphasis on producation, planning, and running a farm businesss. The teachers are solid and the students bring a diversity of past experiences and lots fun to the farm.
A typical week includes three days working on our student farm where we grow 40-50 varieties of vegetables that are sold at a farm stand, through weekly food shares (aka CSA), and wholesale to local grocers and cafeterias. I also spend one day a week working other farms in the area. And each week we have a classroom day with lectures on various farm topics that have included pest and disease management, business planning, crop rotations, soil science and much more. Learning lots from experienced farmers and specialists from the Extension Service (that's UVM's public farm consulting agency, it's fantastic).
 There's such a great diversity on the farm - from harvesting bouquets of flowers to discing fields with a tractor. At times we've taste tested four types of melon in our field, with juice running down our chins, and on some early mornings I've helped milk on a dairy farm. 
Thankfully, food and farming is such a rich, satisfying endeavor - it has to be, otherwise the tiredness and tedium at times would erase all pleasure. 
Fall spinach in its glowing green glory

Discussing the finer points of turnips

Back from the Amaranth harvest