BRATTLEBORO - Over the past 75 years not a whole lot has changed down on the Thurber farm in West Brattleboro.
Sure, there have been advancements in farm machinery and in plant and animal science, but the cows still have to be milked every day, the maple sap still starts to flow in the spring, and late summer is a time to can and put up food for the long Vermont winter.
But over the years Stuart Thurber Jr., 74, has noticed one big change.
"People appreciate farmers more now," he said after gathering eggs one morning this week. "We used to be anonymous. I think society respects agriculture and the work we do. That's something we never really felt back then."
The Thurber family is celebrating 75 years of farming this Sunday, Sept. 23, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Lilac Ridge Farm.
The public is invited to come out to the farm on Ames Hill Road to look at old photos, take an old-fashioned hay ride and help the Thurbers celebrate.
Stuart Thurber said the day is also a chance to thank everyone in the community who has helped the farm grow over the years.
"You spend so much time in farming looking ahead we thought it might be nice to look back," he said.
Stuart Thurber's father, Stuart Sr., purchased the 75 acres of fertile farm land in 1937, after years of farming in Massachusetts and in Brattleboro.
Stuart Jr. was born the following year and he still lives in the same house that overlooks the fruit
He remembers dropping off the morning milk delivery on his way to Brattleboro High School and helping his father load up hatching eggs on the train to New Jersey.
Farming was always an important part of Brattleboro's economy, and people in the region enjoyed more fresh milk, eggs and vegetables than they probably realized, but Thurber said over the years there was much less of an appreciation for the people who were producing all that food.
That began to change in the mid-1990s when Stuart's son, Ross, and his wife Amanda made their decision to work on the farm.
In Brattleboro, and across the country, there was a renewed interest in local and organic food.
Ross, who is one of Stuart's four children, decided to transition the cow herd over to organic practices and Amanda expanded the vegetable, fruit and flower sales on the farm.
Maple syrup production also grew, and while farming had always been a year-round business, the Thurbers were now managing wood lots, gathering and boiling maple sap and raising more produce which was sold at their roadside stand on Ames Hill Road.
The family is excited to invite the public to their farm Sunday, but Ross Thurber said it was hard to look another 75 years into the future.
The oldest of his three children is not yet 13 and Ross said they all have years to grow before they even begin thinking about the future.
In 1998 Lilac Ridge Farm, which now includes about 600 acres, was made part of the Vermont Land Trust and the property has been conserved in perpetuity.
Ross said that while he is not sure if Thurbers will be working this land in 75 years, he can be sure that someone will under Vermont Land Trust rules.
So this weekend is a time to reflect on the three-quarters of a century that the family has been stewards of the West Brattleboro property.
"There is nothing new about any of this," Ross said. "Machinery has not changed the fact that this is still about people managing the natural resources. We want to celebrate 75 years of food production, of being a presence in this community, and of conserving this land. But I don't know who's going to be managing this land in the future. In the big picture 75 years is not that long of a time."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.