By Kirsten Workman, Agronomy Outreach Professional
As seen in our Summer 2018 Newsletter – but including additional links below.
Farming is often a solitary pursuit. While it takes a team to make a farm succeed, daily activities often happen in solitude. Whether it is in the milk house, greenhouse, fields, tractor, shop or office, very few people will
ever “see” you at work. While that is often viewed as a positive, it also leads to a disconnect between farmers and neighbors.
Why does this matter? Try to remember the last negative interaction with someone outside the farming industry. Was this a result of lack of knowledge and understanding? Misinformation? Perhaps partially your responsibility for not considering how farming endeavors impact a neighbor? Regardless, I have found that when the farming community
opens up to the nonfarming community, the results can be powerful.
Many neighbors have no idea what you do and may be too uncomfortable to ask. I have been at public farm tours where neighbors came into a dairy barn and said, “I drive by here every day and never knew there were cows in these buildings.” People who drive by your farm often think bunker
silos are compost bins. Gone are the days when everyone’s grandparents or aunts and uncles were farmers. Folks no longer spend summer weekends helping family or neighbor bring in hay or crops. Seeing a tractor in
front of them on a state highway only makes them think about being late to an important appointment. Landlords who own your rented fields don’t always understand that manure is an organic fertilizer which makes their
hay field greener, replenishes nutrients, and builds soil health. Herbicides and insecticides, regardless of their form, are as taboo a topic as politics
It is difficult to make time to share farming information and justify the hours away from “productive” pursuits. However, I argue that putting a face on farming is a worthwhile endeavor. It isn’t always comfortable or easy. Without a personal connection to a farm it is easy to lump you in with all the negative press and assume all farms are the problem. However, when these folks are invited to visit your farm, they learn just how much goes into
your daily farming pursuits and hopefully that will have a lasting effect.
Looking For Ways To Get Involved With The Public? Here Are A Few Examples:
Breakfast on the Farm – Don’t be intimidated by the scale of this event. It is well-organized and supported by hundreds of volunteers and experts who are there to represent you and the farming community well. Want to learn more? Volunteer on July 28 and see what it’s all about.
Social Media – A low impact way to share your farming endeavors. Here are some great local examples:
Open Farm Week – A Dig In Vermont coordinated, week long event. For a small fee, any farm can participate and be promoted across the state. You must welcome visitors and host some sort of farm activity. However, technical assistance is available to help create a valuable on-farm experience for participants.
Crops Exhibit and Farm Product Contests – Join the competition at Addison County Field Days or Vermont Farm Show with hay, crops, honey, eggs and vegetables. Not only can you earn blue ribbons, premiums and bragging rights; you help us educate the public about farming in Vermont.
Cabot Open Farm Sunday – Cabot Creamery and AgriMark Farms can participate in Cabot’s Open Farm Sunday in October.
Workshops/Field Days/Tours – Volunteer! The next time your friendly Extension Agent, Crop Consultant, Feed Consultant, or Politician asks if you’ll host a group at your farm…just say YES!
Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition – Join the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition and find like-minded farmers with good tips and tricks on engaging the public on your farm. Other farmer organizations in Vermont include Farmer’s Watershed Alliance and Connecticut River Watershed Farmers Alliance.
Contact Kirsten Workman if you’d like to host an event! 802-388-4969