Agriculture & Open Lands

Our agricultural community is the backbone of the state. These folks are smart, hardworking and proud. When this community needs help, solutions aren’t always easy or obvious. It’s about listening and then rolling up your sleeves to get to work.

I once received a call from VAST about a farm being closed to snowmobile traffic, and by taking the time to listen and learn, I discovered that the closed farm also impacted a large summertime event. Wanting to be fully informed, I went out to the farm and met with the owner to hear his perspective. He explained that when Route 100 was paved 30 years ago, the state promised him a cow crossing because the road separated his fields from his barn. He had inquired every year about the crossing, but when his 78-year-old mother was recently hit by a vehicle while herding the cows across the road, he had enough. That’s when he limited access to his land, as he felt this was his only response to an unresponsive government. I decided to call VTrans on his behalf. Initially, they weren’t enthusiastic, giving me a “No, because …” answer that I didn’t find acceptable. I continued to push and brought VTrans out to the property and together we found a solution that worked for Farmer Turner and for the state. His land now remains open to the summer event and snowmobiles. He has also passed his farm down to his son who is an organic farmer.

As a State Senator I got a call from the Scribner Farm on the day after the famous Valentine’s Day snowstorm. He was worried he was going to lose his barn, his cows and his farm – their entire livelihood. The cows couldn’t get out because the snow was too deep and the barn trusses were creaking under the weight of the snow on the roof. I didn’t call the state. Instead, I got in my truck and headed to the farm. On the way I called AGC, Norwich University and WDEV Radio. I was just looking for help to clear snow. When I arrived, I took the shovel out of my truck and climbed on the roof and started shoveling. The first people to arrive were Farmer Turner of Waitsfield and his son, the organic farmer. He said, he heard my call for help. Soon, people started showing up and we were able to save the barn. But the work wasn’t done. I called the Agriculture Agency to ask if similar problems had been reported around the state. They had. So I worked to put together a small program to help farmers get this kind of emergency help in the future.

When a farmer in Worcester was facing serious violations for having his manure runoff go into the Winooski River, I went to his farm to learn more and strategized with him about less expensive ways to comply with the law. Like many farmers, he didn’t have funds to put into the project so I brought my crew out and fixed his problems at no cost. When the story reached the local news, the owner of the stone quarry where I had purchased product for the job called me up to see if I really did the job at no cost. When I said “yes” he told me to tear up his bill for the stone, because he would donate it.