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Vermont Winter Farm Show Kicks Off Today

farm tractor in field
WAMC/Pat Bradley

The three-day Vermont Farm Show begins today in Essex Junction.  The trade show brings together farmers, agricultural vendors, food producers and educators to discuss the current status and future trends of the industry.
Agriculture is Vermont’s largest industry.  According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, production in all sectors in the state is just over $776 million.  Dairy dominates with more than $504 million in milk production.

The annual winter Farm Show celebrates Vermont’s agriculture and heritage with organization meetings, information booths, product competitions, a consumer night and cook-off competition and this year celebrations of the 100th anniversaries of Cabot Creamery and the St. Albans Coop.  Coordinator Jackie Folsom says many farm shows in the Northeast are held in winter and Vermont’s tends to avoid formal seminars and workshops.  “We’ve tried to have those in the past and our guests and visitors just like to come in and check out the displays and it’s almost like old home week for the farmers in Vermont. We’re geared towards all kinds of agriculture but we also have interesting things for non-agriculturalists including showing off the technology that we use. And then we host consumer night on Wednesday which is a farmers’ market that’s hosted by the Agency of Agriculture. So we’re quite busy for the next three days and we’ll be here rain, snow or shine.”

Nearly 300 booths will be set up at the Champlain Valley Expo from vendors, farmers, manufacturers and organizations.  With the federal government now open Folsom anticipates booths set up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be among the most popular.  “With the new Farm Bill there’s a lot of information that  farmers need to find out about and how that Farm Bill affects them particularly the dairy farmers and the payments that they might be able to receive. We have a lot of new equipment and new technology that’s going to be available to look at.  You know I recall lots of times in the years past we’ve had people who are shocked about the robotic milkers and they get down on their hands and knees with their cell phone following the laser beam underneath the cow. It’s a plastic cow. But they’re just astonished with the technology that farmers are using and it’s really quite amazing to be able to talk to them about how innovative our industry really is.”

A number of organizational meetings are held during the farm show.  Greg Smela owns High Street Honey in Brandon and is a member of the Vermont Beekeepers Association’s Advisory Board.  “We’ve got a number of sessions where we talk about the business of the association and we talk about diseases that may affect bees. We also will have a display booth at the farm show where people are invited to come in and sample honey. And we’ll have demonstration hives so people can see what a beehive looks like and what the equipment looks like and people around who’ll be able to answer questions for anybody who might have an interest in becoming a beekeeper.”

Smela says the Beekeepers Association has traditionally held its meeting during the Farm Show.  “The Farm Show has always been the big to-do of Vermont’s agricultural community. And the VBA, the Vermont Beekeepers Association, has always had its winter meeting at the farm show. And it’s just a way for us to first of all gather all of our members together to just talk about policy and programs and what direction we want to go. But it’s also a way to promote beekeeping to the general public and to other members of the agricultural community.”  

The Vermont Farm Show is free and open to the public. But Folsom notes that they are asking for donations to benefit the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf.  “Because as agriculturalists we feel that we should help give back to others. So we’re asking everybody to bring in a canned or a boxed donation or we also will also will have cash jars there too.”