As Lynn Miller of the Small Farmer’s Journal described in the New York Times, an estimated 400,000 operations in North America use draft horses in some capacity. According to the Green Mountain Draft Horse Association (GMDHA), over 100 farms in Vermont use animal power. A draft horse renaissance is taking root as people become increasingly interested in sustainable agriculture, renewable forms of energy, traditional farm equipment and practices, and greater connection with the land.
On Saturday, July 27 from 11 am-2 pm, Vermont’s GMDHA annual field day will take place at Shelburne Farms. This public event is a celebration of farming with horse-drawn equipment.
Those who attend will learn more about working horses, as well as meet those who farm or want to farm with draft animal power. Draft Horse Field Day will take place on Poplar Drive, near Shelburne Farms’ Welcome Center.
This year’s field day theme will be wheat production. It will include demonstrations on growing wheat from start to finish – plowing, seeding, reaping, binding, and threshing – with draft horses. The public will be able to see a Shelburne Farms 1910 threshing machine separate grain from the straw of oats that had been harvested with an antique reaper binder pulled by draft horses in anticipation of the program. Butterworks Farm’s Jack Lazor will give a talk about growing wheat in Vermont.
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) will have salads and pizza from their mobile oven for sale. This is a family-friendly event. Kids can plant and thresh wheat by hand, participate in a hay bale race, grind maize, and more. The field day also coincides with the 30th birthday party of Dudley, a Shelburne Farms’ miniature Sicilian Donkey who lives at the Children’s Farmyard. Cake will be served. There will also be an opportunity to join for a special behind-the-scenes tour of Shelburne Farms by horse and wagon. This event is free with admission to the property, and the tour is $8. All are welcome.