Heifers stroll in Brattleboro

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(Host) Tomorrow almost a hundred cows will parade down Brattleboro’s Main Street.

The fourth annual Strolling of the Heifers celebration kicked off last night with its yearly farm summit.

VPR’s Susan Keese was there.

(Keese) The good news is that new people are entering Vermont agriculture all the time. Some of them are young people returning to their family farms.

Others are from non-rural backgrounds. Elizabeth Wood, who grew up near Boston, said her family thought she was crazy when she told them she wanted to farm.

(Wood) “They said: How could you possibly make a living farming? Farms are going out of business all the time. And they’re getting bigger and bigger. And you don’t have a farm. So how are you going to do this?”

(Keese) Progressive dairy advocate Anthony Pollina said the loss of small farms is not inevitable, but the result of choices by policymakers.

(Pollina) “They said American agriculture was inefficient. And the reason it was inefficient was that there were too many resources in agriculture. And they said there were too many people in agriculture.”

(Keese) Pollina said the push for consolidation and high production has hurt not only farmers but the nation’s landscape and social fabric. He challenged Vermont to reverse the trend, in part by opening its own markets – state cafeterias, colleges and prisons — to locally grown food.

Strolling of the Heifers founder Orly Munzing says the weekend’s goal is to raise awareness about local agriculture. There’s a lot of food tasting on the town Common after the parade, a celebrity milking contest, a heifer ball Saturday evening and farm tours on Sunday.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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