Orchard Observations: Farms for family and friends

D-3-Apple-Observations-SBy Megan Humphrey, Shelburne Orchards

We all love to see farmland stretched out around us as we travel the state of Vermont. We appreciate the quintessential farmhouse, barn, and field with cows. We like the patterns in an apple orchard with lines of trees, the rows of corn in a field or future Christmas trees on a hillside, and chickens running around a dooryard.

Here are some unique ways to help save those same farms as you search for the perfect gift for friends and family this holiday season:

After Pete Johnson’s (of Pete’s Greens) barn burned down in January of 2011, the community of Vermont and beyond quickly rallied and donations poured in to rebuild. Fortunately, Pete’s Greens was able to continue farming and provide food for others again fairly soon. Pete then chose to “pay it forward” by starting a loan fund for other Vermont farmers. He partnered with The Center for an Agricultural Economy, and the “Vermont Farm Fund” was created. Since then, $160,000 has been distributed in both emergency and innovation loans, including help after Tropical Storm Irene devastated much of the state. As the money is repaid, it goes back into the fund to be loaned out again. This allows some farms to obtain funding that would not be available otherwise. It’s a great and very direct way to help Vermont farmers, and you could donate in someone’s name for the holiday. Donations are accepted at www.vermontfarmfund.org/support-the-farm-fund.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA VT) has developed a “Farm Share Gift Program” which provides food to limited-income folks in Vermont. A $25 donation allows one person to have a season of healthy food, and $125 provides enough food for a family of five. “This program works to preserve the working landscape that keeps our state so beautiful and also brings fresh, local food to community members who need it most,” explains Program Coordinator Erin Buckwalter. What a great deal! Again, donating in someone else’s name as a holiday gift would be unique and would also help to maintain farms. Please visit www.nofavt.org/programs/farm-share/gifts for more information.

Chris Howell, founder of Vermont Farm Tours, offers guided full-day and half-day tours, workshops, and pairing events. It’s a delightful way to get an inside look at farms throughout the area. Howell has been a farmer, educator, and community organizer, so he thoroughly enjoys showcasing the passion of farmers. In 2014, he’ll be guiding a bicycle tour through Shelburne, either as a 10-mile or 25-mile loop, which will include Bread & Butter Farm, Shelburne Orchards, and Shelburne Vineyard. A gift certificate for next year’s tours would be fabulous! You can purchase them at www.vermontfarmtours.com/tours.html.

In a season filled with gratitude and giving, please take a moment to thank a farmer for the food they provide. May your holiday be filled with light and laughter.

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