Everyone who grows up in a small rural Vermont town has early exposure to farms. Kindergarten classes take trips to the local turkey farm and second graders learn how to make butter in a jelly jar. In third grade you hatch baby chicks in an incubator and learn why you must draw on the eggs with a pencil, not a pen. Fifth and sixth grades often include a long unit on early Vermont life, where you discover how much easier farming is now than the homesteading of the 1800’s. My family lived on a dirt road, and like many children, I grew up walking balance beam across the beaver dam in my back yard and making fairy tea parties in the balsam stand just up the hill. It was only natural that when I was ready to have a job, my parents paid me to weed the garden or feed the chickens. My mom and I canned everything we could get our hands on, especially peaches, and the entire family ate canned sunshine all winter long. I am the child of hippies who found a welcoming safe haven in the tight knit community Cabot offers. I grew up with kids from all different backgrounds and since there were so few of us, we managed to muddle along just fine. What we had in common was this tiny farming community that we were inherently a part of. This was our world.
It has always been suggested that I ought to have been born a century before I was. My interests as a child were considered old fashioned, but as the new homesteading movement has developed in the millennial generation, I seem to find my childhood interests popping up in university courses, and local workshops and restaurant menus. Food. That is what ties us all together. I entered the world of college, looking for a way to express this increasingly urgent feeling that something was seriously wrong with our food systems. I worked with two different scientists looking at vastly different aspects of our natural (and unnatural) world and from them received a sort of mentorship not only about nature, but about lifestyle and the effect of the choices we make. When I wasn’t in school, I volunteered on two different farms in Cabot that seemed to have an “older fashioned” concept about farming and what it was all about. Working with Duffy Gardner, we talked about space, not just for plants, but for people too. We discussed studies done where music seems to affect the growth of plants. We explored the psychological health brought on by gardening. And we weeded carrots. Working with Lee Blackwell and Ruth Richards, I learned about bee keeping and preserving foods and raising just about everything you need to survive on a relatively small plot of land. I learned how to make kimchi and mozzarella, I learned where to find ramps, and I learned to think critically about the oil and financial systems in the context of human history. My deep connection to food led me to the restaurant industry where I came into contact with the “real world”; the world of bottom line and quarterly profit. It occurred to me that the three worlds that I had experienced thus far seemed to be in stark opposition to each other. But hadn’t it been a functioning unified system at one point? Wasn’t this what I had read about since I was a young child; a time when community, farm, and consumption had been closely entwined and interdependent?
So I set out on a new path. A path that would teach me how to rescue these small communities, teach people how to thwart the bottom line, and revitalize the “homestead” so that each person could interpret and implement it as best suited the life they chose to live. Here I am. I am a young, inspired, down to earth intellectual with a massive goal. I have been studying Ecological Agriculture with a focus in community planning at the University of Vermont. I am a certified Permaculturist. I am a homesteader in my own right, with a large garden, a flock of baby chicks, a happy family, and a comprehensive goal for my own life that includes food, farm, and nutrition. These things are not possible on a large scale unless we educate our neighbors. A community is only successful if we look after each other. Otherwise it’s just a suburb, and Vermont is so much more than a suburb.