RURAL VERMONT REACHES 1000 MEMBER GOAL
30TH Anniversary Celebration Finale put the grassroots family farm advocacy group at an unprecedented level of support for its advocacy for real food, real farms and real change.
Bethel, VT – To resounding applause, Rural Vermont Board Member Susan Hayes announced that the group’s 1000 member strong goal had been met. The announcement came at the end of the final event of Rural Vermont’s year-long 30th Anniversary celebration - a rousing evening of farmers telling their stories on a theme of “What’s eating you? What’s feeding you?” enhanced by musical selections from Vermont icons Patti Casey, Colin McCaffrey and Pete Sutherland.
The historic Bethel Town Hall was filled with an appreciative audience that included many former board and staff members of Rural Vermont who gathered before the show for a reunion that was punctuated by laughter, hugs and more stories from Rural Vermont’s 30 year history of amplifying the voices of Vermont’s family farmers.
Jenny Nelson, former Rural Vermont Board co-chair, and now Sen. Bernie Sanders’ agricultural advisor, who still farms with her family at Home Acres Farm in Ryegate, started the evening off by describing her journey from being an inexperienced new farm wife to becoming a savvy and dedicated farm policy advocate.
Lisa McCrory and Carl Russell who, with their kids, operate Earthwise Farm & Forest in Bethel, offered a multi-media look at their history of grassroots activism from participating in local parades and protests to speaking on the steps of the Vermont State House at the invitation of the governor when the historic GMO Labeling bill was signed in to law.
Lindsay Harris, who co-owns Mountain Home Farm, a completely grass-based dairy farm and Grade A licensed creamery in Tunbridge, regaled the audience with humor and passion in her story of struggling to gain fair and reasonable regulations for raw milk dairy farms.
Following the intermission, Rural Vermont was just eight shy of its 1000 member goal, and by halfway through the second half that number had dropped to two. In the second half of the show, first up was the world premiere of Rural Vermont’s first music video: “Can’t Quit When You’ve Got Good Folks Behind You” which is an original song written and performed by Rural Vermont farmer/members Jonathan Falby and Zac Johnson with visuals created by Gregg Stevens.
Then Judy Clark who, with her husband John, founded Applecheek Farm in Hyde Park, shared her story of becoming an organic farm and joining Rural Vermont’s effort to pass legislation to protect organic farmers and others from the impact of contamination from genetically engineered crops. Judy described how it was hard to overcome her shyness about being “out front” but her belief in the values of her family’s farm gave her the courage to become an activist.
The last farmer/performer of the evening was Frey Ellis who, with his wife Rebecca Beidler, farms in Orleans County at Peace of Earth Farm. In addition to farming, Frey is well known as a lyrical artist who has a talent for crafting poems out of suggestions from his audiences. Frey first reprised his original poem “Cultivating Resistance” which he composed from material suggested by Rural Vermont members for the first Farmers Tell Their Stories event last April. Then, joined by fellow improviser Carl Russell, Frey drew slips of paper from a bucket on which audience members had written what was eating and feeding them. More laughter and applause ensued as Frey and Carl traded verse about everything from corporate greed to the benefit of beets.
Rural Vermont is a non-profit organization representing Vermont’s community of family farmers, neighbors and citizens committed to supporting and cultivating a vital and healthy rural economy and community. Rural Vermont believes family farms and the local food that they provide are at the heart of thriving communities and environmental sustainability. Economic justice for family farmers is the foundation of a healthy rural economy. Towards this end, Rural Vermont strives for fair regulation for farmers and works to counter corporate consolidation of agriculture and our food system.