Burlington’s bountiful harvest

Local produce is in no shortage in the city of Burlington, and what comes with a bountiful array of local, organic farms is the annual Harvest Festival, a tradition and custom that has roots as deep as the act of farming. The Harvest Festival is the end of the summer, the official beginning of fall and a chance to pick your Halloween pumpkin. It may be a sad time for those who have enjoyed fresh, local produce all summer long, but for farmers who have been working tirelessly for months, it means a time to celebrate, and that’s exactly what they do. This past Saturday, City Market, along with the UVM student-run farm Common Ground, hosted its annual Harvest Festivals for Burlington residents, UVM students and the farmers that make it all happen. At the City Market festival, held in a tent next to the co-op, a three-person band played, inviting everyone passing by to come in and enjoy the local food. The vendors included Vermont Cookie Love, whose slogan read, “Bake Love Not War,” and Monument Farms Dairy, who was close by with cold local milk to wash down the chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies. It was a day to celebrate good food, advertise eco-friendly products and indulge in guilt-free spending.”I know the money I pay will go to help the local economy,” said Nick Bedrin, a junior at UVM who attended the festival. Jessica Fisher, also a UVM junior, agrees in the importance of buying local. “It’s really important because it keeps local businesses in business,” she said.Over at the Common Ground farm, students biked, walked and car-pooled to attend the event put on by the farm employees, the UVM Horticulture Club and Alpha Zeta, the CALS agricultural honors fraternity. Students spread out across the acres of fields, picking the last remaining tomatoes, Swiss chard and lettuce, among other crops. Saturday was the last CSA pick-up for the farm, so all that was left in the fields was up for the taking.”I’m so glad that everyone’s gleaning the fields,” said Maggie Donin, a UVM student and Common Ground employee. In Burlington, a dollar or two can put fresh vegetables in anyone’s pocket, but the intensity of actual farm work is often overlooked. Long hours of manual labor and a heavy dependence on the cooperation of Mother Nature, farmers potentially have a very rough job, and Donin shared some of the woes of organic farming that we consumers never see.”The physical aspects of farming and the pressures of it can be difficult. It’s hard to cover all the bases and thoroughly complete each task,” she said, and explained that tomatoes, while seemingly in abundance at the Common Ground farm, were their most difficult crop to grow.”You have to transplant them a couple times, then trellis them, then prune them and then harvest them in time before they rot,” Donin said.But Saturday was a time to enjoy the tomatoes, forget about hardships and celebrate the turning of the season.Many students that attended the festival have had their hands in farming, and they do the best job defining the true meaning of a harvest festival.”It is a celebration of all the hard work that goes into the farm and all of the bounty that comes out,” attendee Hannah Beal said.UVM student Alessandro Ascherio had a more susinct reason for the festival’s being. “Community,” he said.Because if community is to be built, what better way to do it than the age-old communal tradition of sharing food?