Eco Investigation: Local Farming


Enola Mercer, Cynic Correspondent

Like the long, winding roots of the sugar maple, Vermont’s state tree, Burlington’s connection to local farming goes deep.

The “slow food” revolution is making significant changes in the U.S. agricultural system by promoting a return to our farming beginnings, according to Slow Food USA.

Slow Food is an international movement to return the food and agriculture system to its roots by preserving regional cooking and promoting local farming that use natural ecosystems.

Statistics show that the demand for mass-produced food products is declining, according to the news source SFGate, while small-time farmers have renewed their efforts at distributing fresh produce and local dairy to their communities.

Farming is “not just about the science, not just about the economics and not just about the socioeconomics. It’s about all of it together,” said UVM plant and soil science professor Victor Izzo.

In his office, tucked away among the greenhouses and giant pumpkins at UVM, Izzo emphasized the importance of united relationships in the slow food movement. “It’s very collaborative,” he said.

This collaboration is what has makes UVM and Burlington so successful. The fledgling farmers of Burlington have benefitted most from this cooperative relationship.

Nonprofits are a big contributor to the collaboration that makes slow food a success.

Organizations like the Vermont Community Garden Network bring knowledge of agriculture across the state to all those willing to learn, according to their website.

Through cultivation of local political support, increased access to public gardens and farm education programs, “The Vermont Community Garden Network’s mission is to support and grow the state’s vibrant network of community and school gardens,” according to the website.

Where VCGN informs the community and builds support among those who might not normally be involved in farming, other organizations help with the technical side of the agricultural revolution.

Local farmers can connect with The Intervale, helping to reduce the financial risks of land purchase, according to their website.

Through internships and majors such as food systems, plant biology and ecological agriculture, farmers also get assistance in their work and research from students.

These opportunities growers, are a crucial part of the continuity of the sustainable agriculture dream, and are some of the most important resources for UVM students as well.

The goal of many professors is to “not only get students on the farms, but also get them involved in service learning,” Izzo said. Students get to do research and work to design new ways to solve problems on actual farms.

Burlington has done its part in supplying the University with plenty of innovative ideas for students to get involved with.

Queen City Acres, run by Burlington local Ethan Thompson, provides an innovative and accessible way to farm.

“For one, he doesn’t own most of the land he farms on,” sophomore Julian Lathrop said. “He takes what would have been an unused lawn in the back of other people’s houses and turns them into functioning farms.”

With Thompson’s knowledge and help from eager students like Lathrop, Queen City Acres takes care of the planting, maintaining and harvesting while local residents provide the space and financial support.

“We think community-supported agriculture goes two ways: you support us with your dollars at the start of the season, and we support you with the produce you want, when it works for you, all season long,” Thompson’s website states.

“Any food that has a shorter distance from production to consumption is something we need more of,” Lathrop said. “If we can do that, we can reduce all the bad stuff about big agriculture.”