Last Wednesday presented another lovely summer evening for Upper Valley farmers and farm workers to gather at Sweetland Farm for the third CRAFT meeting of the 2016 season. We had wonderful attendance of folks from 7 different farms in the Upper Valley! Everyone brought delicious dishes to share for the post-tour potluck, featuring a taste of crops coming in around the Upper Valley in late June. These included cucumbers, summer squash, strawberries, and more. But before we could dig in, we had 87 acres of diversified pasture and cropland to tour with Sweetland Farmer Norah Lake.
The tour started down at the large converted dairy barn on the side of Rte 132 in Norwich, VT. Though Sweetland has only been in operation since 2012, it has thoughtful and seasoned land owners, both in the principles and practices of the farm. Sweetland Farm is a true success story of Vermont Land Trust’s Farmland Access Program, doing their best to care for the land and the community for which they belong. it is clear to me how beneficial the program is for would-be farmers of Vermont searching for affordable agricultural land who share the program’s values of ecological, economic, and social sustainability.
It was wonderful to hear Norah tell of the past, present, and future plans for the farm. From hay fields converted to crop lands using the power of pastured pork, to ponds as water reserves for irrigation, timber-framed staff housing units, and a brand new greenhouse, there are many new and exciting developments for those who work at Sweetland Farm and for those who subscribe to the CSA. With orchards, pastures, cropland, sheds, and ponds dotting the hillside, there was something to interest everyone during the tour. We had wonderful discussions about the pros and cons of receiving a USDA grant, the best sprinkler head systems, how mail-order pigs work, best ways to integrate crops and livestock into the agro-ecosystem, how to grow a prize-winning county fair pumpkin, and what to do with it once the fair is over. If anyone is wondering, the best options seemed to be entering in a punkin chunkin contest or a pumpkin regatta.
Overall, this 2016 CRAFT season is shaping up to be a great way to spend the evening getting to know farmers and farm workers of the Upper Valley. From my point of view, it has been a rewarding opportunity to learn about the vast potentials and possibilities for farming in the region. I know it isn’t easy to find time in the height of the growing season, but I am always grateful for the variety of perspectives and ideas contributed during these gatherings. Life has definitely gotten better upon learning about pumpkin races across Lake Champlain.