University of Vermont

Cultivating Healthy Communities


Who Farms? A project celebrating Vermont farmers

Farmer and Gourds

Agriculture shapes the economies, social life, and landscape of rural communities across the county. In this panorama, Vermont is recognized as a national leader in our commitment to farmers, an agriculture-based economy, and locally produced food. But the image of who is a farmer is often fairly constricted. The typical Vermont farmer is frequently depicted as a middle-aged, male dairy farmer of northern European descent, whose family has lived here for generations. This image has been created and supported by historical patterns of representation of ethnicity, landscape, and community that are both powerful and unique to Vermont.

Although many such farmers do indeed play important roles in our communities, the reality is, of course, more complicated and dynamic. Vermont farmers come to their work from a wide array of ethnic and cultural groups, including Native American and African American people, Southern European, Caribbean and Latin American people and, more recently, resettled refugees from Asia and Africa. Farming has never been a strictly male activity, nor has farming in Vermont always been about milking cows.

When the popular image is a homogenized one, many of the people producing food, managing the land, and contributing to their communities are rendered less visible and are consequently ignored. When this happens, the larger community lacks important information about its composition, resources, and why people make the decisions they do about land management. Making that information available can be an important step towards strengthening the social fabric of Vermont's rural communities and their tradition of civil discourse.

To address this challenge, the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture, in partnership with the UVM Humanities Center, the Vermont Folklife Center, Vermont's Farm to School Network, and the Vermont Historical Society, proposes a community-wide learning project to enrich our shared understanding of who farms in Vermont, and the context in which farmers do their work. Specifically, we seek to document diverse farmers' oral histories, and then use those as the foundation for comic books and digital storytelling videos. Those will then become the center of a curriculum for middle schools participating in Vermont's Farm to School programs.

This Project in the News

We've been honored to receive a lot of early media attention for this project. Here's a sampling of what's appeared in Vermont and around the nation.


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Project Partners

UVM Center for Sustainable Ag. Logo
UVM Humanities Center Logo
Vermont Folklife Center Logo
Vermont Historical Society Logo

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*Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Last modified September 13 2017 03:24 PM