Community Development and Applied Economics
My Turn: Rally Around All Farmers
via Burlington Free Press
- By Daniel John Kirk
It's not that I don't, in earnest, applaud the rallying of community support that is happening around the misfortune (of both fate and under-insurance) that was the barn fire at Pete's Greens. I admire it. The benefit dinners being put on, the donation of profits from places such as City Market, the concert at Higher Ground (featuring none other than a few members of the Burlington musical institution, Phish, old friends of Pete's Greens employee Amy Skelton) -- it's all great.
What gets me is this: Why haven't we and why aren't we rallying in the same way for the rest of the farmers in Vermont? The number of dairy farmers of Vermont is dwindling yearly. Farmers such as Paul Bourbeau of Franklin County, who VPR reported in 2009 was forced to sell his entire herd due to the decline in milk prices and the recession. He even, eight years prior, rebuilt his own barn after a fire in the early 2000s. With his own money.
What about the Intervale Center -- and the organizations like it across the state -- one of the cornerstones of Northwest Vermont's small-scale agricultural presence? It's a non-profit. As one of its many programs that maintain or better farming and organic food access, it provides the opportunity for new, small-scale organic farmers to do what they want: to farm. The Intervale needs the support of donors every day of every year so that they can keep giving many of us what we want: good, organic food grown by people we know and like, while emphasizing that we should and can secure Vermont's agrarian landscape and culture long into the future.
And what about the yearly crop failures that cost many other small-scale farmers a similar bout of financial loss that Pete's is feeling?
The point is not that we should give up and stop supporting Pete's quest to rebuild a stronger, and hopefully more insured, barn and farm. The point is that this can and should be an event that raises awareness that Vermont's farmers, right now, are in a constant economic struggle. Every year they have to figure out ways to work and survive so that we can all benefit: these are the folks who maintain a great piece of the landscape, jobs, and culture that is part of the fabric of what makes Vermont, Vermont.
I think we, the strong, rooted, intelligent and caring Vermont community should help Pete's. I just think we should help the Pauls, the Intervales, and the others, too.