Ask a Local: Rosalyn Graham
Welcome to farm country, Lake Champlain style. It’s probably like nothing you’ve ever seen, and it’s a wonderfully exciting and scenic place to be.
Let’s start with the past. If you’re up on your early American history, you can drive the Byway with visions of waving fields of grain in your head because you’ll recall that in the earliest days of settlement, this area was known as the “Bread Basket of the Nation.”
All that changed when grain farmers headed west. Sheep and cows became the agriculture of choice around here. Today you ride through fields filled with photogenic herds of cows, flocks of sheep, and bales of hay (no kidding!).
But let me tell you, as a local who loves farming, the really exciting news about farms is the future which is coming into view. Vermont farmers — both the resourceful old-timers who are looking for a more sustainable kind of agriculture, and new arrivals who are coming here to find a quality of life that includes the beauty and friendliness of the state — are creating exciting agricultural endeavors, and you can see them happening all over the place.
The farms of Vermont range from dairy farmers who are making artisan cheeses (read about them on the Vermont Cheese Trail website), orchardists who make cider and apple pies, llama farmers, shepherds who sell wool, berry farmers, Christmas tree farmers, and sugarbush farmers who spend six weeks in the winter gathering sap and turning it into golden maple syrup and the rest of the year selling syrup, sugar, candies and maple syrup baked goods. There are vineyards (some with tasting rooms), specialty vegetable farmers and farms with corn mazes for exploring. And farmers’ markets can give you not only a chance to talk to local farmers and learn about their work, but also lots of goodies, locally grown or baked, to picnic along the way.
A visit to the Vermont Farms! website will introduce you to lots of farms where they welcome you for a visit, a tasting, and even for an overnight stay. Check out www.NOFAVT.org for news and information on local organic farms.
One farm with a big story to tell is Shelburne Farms. Founded in 1886 as a model agricultural estate, Shelburne Farms today welcomes visitors to see a working 1,400 acre farm, an environmental education center and National Historic Landmark. There is fun for children visiting the Children’s Farmyard, property tours, making cheddar cheese from the milk of the farms’ Brown Swiss cows, and miles of walking trails. The original family mansion is now a seasonal inn with a renowned dining room showcasing the best of Vermont agricultural produce.
So, while you’re here in the Lake Champlain Byway, be sure to stop and see what’s up…down on the farm.
Rosalyn is Director of Community Relations at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne.