By Tara Kelly
I once asked this question back when I moved here in the early 2000s and the response was, “There is only one left. The old Smith place.” Folks were referring to what is now Pine Valley Farm, and despite being an agricultural based community, that was frequently the only farm that came to mind.
Wrapped up in peoples’ response was a collective social understanding of what constitutes a farm. As best I could make out, at that time the majority of people living in our county believed that a farm could only mean an active dairy farm with 30 or more milkers. The cows had to be black and white Holsteins, though some variations, such as Jersey cows, were grudgingly considered.
Over the past decade we’ve undergone an agricultural resurgence and the very understanding of what constitutes a farm has shifted. As new agricultural businesses are continually cropping up to meet the rising consumer demand for locally produced food, the definition of what constitutes a farm has evolved.
According to Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, our official state authority on the issue, farming is defined as activities falling into one of the following practices:
- The cultivation or other use of land for growing food, fiber, Christmas trees, maple sap, or horticultural and orchard crops.
- The raising, feeding or management of livestock, poultry, fish or bees.
- The operation of greenhouses.
- The production of maple syrup.
- The on-site storage, preparation and sale of agricultural products principally produced on the farm.
- The on-site production of fuel or power from agricultural products or wastes produced on the farm.
- The raising, feeding, or management of four or more equines owned or boarded by the farmer, including training, showing, and providing instruction and lessons in riding, training, and the management of equines.
With those guidelines in mind, today’s response to my original question, “Are there farms in Shrewsbury?,” is a resounding yes. The breadth of agricultural enterprises in Shrewsbury, over a dozen, in fact, mirrors the technical definition of farming perfectly. Perhaps one of the clearest examples of this evolving definition is “the other Smith farm”, Smith MapleCrest. This farm has seen many changes over the years as its been tended to by 8 generations of Smiths. Its current focus is on grassfed beef to supplement their thriving maple business as well as a country bed and breakfast. This family has found a way to perfectly suit the evolving customer interest in these products. And, their products are among those found on the shelves of Pierce’s General Store. This general store was closed from 1993 until 2009, when interest in having an outlet for local foods and other staples generated enough community momentum to get this special place back into operation.
Shrewsbury is not alone. There are communities throughout the region and state that have thriving farming businesses and other food outlets carrying local products. RAFFL is proud to work with many of those farms and other local businesses that focus on local food.
Next month, along with the Shrewsbury Institute for Agriculture Education (SAGE), we are excited to host a farm open house throughout the town of Shrewsbury. On Sunday September 7th, perhaps after showing support for the Vermonters for Vermonters benefit concert at the State Fairgrounds, you are invited to come see the wide variety of farms that Shrewsbury has to offer. You’ll find beef, maple syrup, chicken, vegetables, milk, horses and more all along the beautiful country roads of Shrewsbury. The open house runs from 3-5pm and is free and open to the public.
Later that same day, September 7th, we’re holding our annual fundraiser celebration, Twilight in the Meadow, at Beaver Meadow Farm – one of the many farms of Shrewsbury. This farm’s agricultural roots date back to 1761!
The funds raised at Twilight help RAFFL continue supporting the success of small farms. We assist farms through mentoring, providing technical assistance and creating connections with new customers. At the same time, we work hard to ensure that as many people as possible have equal access to local foods through produce donations, food and cooking education and farm to school efforts.
Twilight in the Meadow is a celebration of local farms and foods. It’s an opportunity to enjoy a variety of creative dishes prepared with local ingredients, chat with your favorite farmers, and learn more about the exciting work we’re accomplishing at RAFFL. Through live and silent auctions you can make a contribution to RAFFL while simultaneously winning a gift certificate or unique experience at a local business or venue. You can find more information and purchase tickets on our website at rutlandfarmandfood.org. or give us a call at 417-7331.
The agricultural resurgence is only possible because of each and every individual who is personally taking action. Thank you for any and every way you support the local farm economy!
Tara Kelly is the Executive Director of RAFFL, the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Rutland Herald.