Discussion aimed at history of organic movement


BRATTLEBORO -- When it comes to the organic movement, former Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee believes it began with the early settlers.

"In the beginning of Vermont history, everyone was organic," he said. "Fertilizers didn't come in until the late 1800's."

On Nov. 10, Allbee will be the moderator for an event called "A Celebration of Vermont's Organic Farming Pioneers," which will be at the Latchis Theater from 4 to 6 p.m. It is being presented by Strolling of the Heifers.

The discussion will largely be based around the organic farm movement started in the 1960's and 1970's. It will begin with a photographic essay by John Nopper and Susan Harlow, called "Plowing Old Ground."

Allbee told the Reformer that the essay "really captures the toil, the ambition, the passion and the transformation that these farmers made in Vermont and across the country in being pioneers."

There will also be a lobby exhibit showcasing regional Community Supported Agricultural, or CSA, ventures from local farmers. There will be samples and information available, during and after the event.

Members of CSA's generally "pay on the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest," a press release for the event stated.

"I think we'll talk about how important organic methods are to many people today and also how important local food is," said Allbee. "When we talk about farming today, many consumers are interested in local foods, which many times are not organic and other times are."

He mentioned that the organic movement has been at the forefront of connecting people with local foods and that having these types of community discussions has been important for the local farm movement.

"You see it in terms of the really interesting food systems in Vermont," said Allbee.

Farmers such as Howard Prussack of High Meadows Farm in Putney; Paul Harlow of the Harlow Farm in Westminster; Jack and Anne Lazor of Butterworks Farm in Westfield; Joey Klein of Littlewood Farm in Plainfield; Jake and Liz Guest of Killdeer Farm in Norwich; and Bruce Kaufman of Riverside Farm in East Hardwick will be there to speak of their own efforts.

According to a press release for the event, the discussion will cover the future as well as the history of the movement. There will be talk of "how organic farming fits in with the new movements around sustainability and resilience, and what new generations of organic farmers can add to what the pioneers launched."

Allbee recently attended a signing ceremony at Montpelier, involving many of the presidents of colleges in the state. They were signing a memorandum of understanding and agreed to put together a consortium for higher education around food systems, Allbee said.

He believes there's a renaissance taking place in Vermont and it's based around foods and agriculture.

"Vermont is recognized as the leader. There's all these individuals, the new pioneers for organic and food from the land, who have been responsible for making Vermont what many think Vermont is, which is a place where the working landscape and activities and agriculture and forestry are what we're all about," Allbee said.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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