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Local Farms Attempting to Adjust to New Reality

close-up partial view of farmer holding ripe organic potatoes in field

The Bridge reached out to local farmers to see how they were coping and innovating during the coronavirus pandemic. Below are three responses we received. We will also post these responses on our website for future reference.

There is no need for truckers to risk their lives to bring food from California or the midwest when we have so many local farms growing produce, meats, poultry, dairy products, cheese, and eggs right here in Central Vermont. We at The Bridge encourage everyone to support our local farmers.
Please contact the farms directly for information on product availability and delivery options
If you are a local farmer and want to participate and have your information added to The Bridge website, please send an email to mara@montpelierbridge.com.

Dog River Farm, Berlin
(802) 249-0383, dogriverfarm.com

Dog River Farm is set up for another year of growing for the people of central Vermont. The virus, coupled with an early spring, has made things very busy, but that’s farming. Sales are robust, our greenhouses are full, and we have been able to work with other business-owner friends who were mandated to close to keep their employees with an income and crops being seeded. The season is right on schedule for a great year.

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The potential issues we see:
• Will we be able to run our U-Pick strawberries because of contact issues?
• Will trucking to out-of-state wholesale accounts be available?
• Will restrictions on farmers markets be lifted in time so we don’t lose retail sales of asparagus and strawberries?

We have seen above-average farm member sales for our CSA program and have opened our stand a month early to provide a clean, small-setting, low-occupancy shopping scene for our older and aware customers.

We got this!

Wicked Bines Farm, Berlin

(802) 223-7931, wickedbinesfarm.com

With some of our restaurant accounts impacted, we have had to find new markets for some of our products. Our self-service farm store is still open 7 days a week with one customer in the store at a time.

Call or email if you have any questions. Thanks for supporting us.
Mike Noyes

LePage Farm
(802) 793-1808, lepagefarm.com

There are two incongruent parts to our farm’s response to the pandemic.

Part One is on the farm. We are enjoying the clearest cleanest skies since I was a kid in the 1950s. Our back road is devoid of traffic, just people walking and enjoying the stunning sunsets of late. We are busy planting carrots, spinach, onions, peas, beets, fava beans, and setting out our beloved 4-year-old rosemary plants, which spend the winter in our heated greenhouse. Our garlic is up, and Lila (my daughter, who is now CEO, and her partner Cam) cultivated it last week. Parsnips are dug, and the wild leeks, the harbinger of spring, are being harvested by my sister Susan and me. My scheduled surgery for a painful knee that keeps me from working as hard as I need to has been canceled indefinitely, which means another long spell of self-medicating with 650 mg acetaminophen and a strong tincture of CBD.

Part Two is the looming financial disaster with which the state’s closure of farmers markets presents us. The Montpelier farmers market constitutes 90 percent of our limited income. We are faced with catastrophic loss of our only means of support. We have been directed, by the Governor’s Office, to apply for an SBA loan. We don’t have a year to wait for some ‘decision’ by people who could care less whether we are in business or not. Lila, my daughter, immediately upon closure of the winter market, instituted an online farm store with three pickup spots. This has worked well with the limited spring selection we offer, but it is questionable how it will work during the summer. We grow over 110 varieties of vegetables, some of which are grown in amounts tailored to market demand. The inability of our customers to see and sample our array of melons or to see the stunning colors of our peppers and eggplants is sure to result in significant losses to our income. We specialize in a range of unusual vegetables that are not staples in the diets of most people. Currently, we are thinking about building a roadside stand at the farm, only 2.5 miles from both Montpelier and Barre city limits. LePage Road is not exactly a major thoroughfare, so we’re not sure if it will work, but after 150 years of farming here, the family is not quite ready to give up.

As I, Alan, serve as vice president of the board of directors of the Montpelier market, and the only farmer/founder of the market still there after 43 years, I won’t easily accept the status of ‘nonessential’ business that the governor has given us. His stance on the markets is offensive, incorrect, and harmful to the agricultural community. It is absurd that the Dollar General stores remain open as ‘essential’ while farmers markets are labeled the opposite. Of course, my stance will seem self-serving by some, but I counter that with the grateful response of the many patrons of the market who buy over a half-million dollars of local produce every year at the Montpelier market. Of them, I would ask that they email, write, and social message their support, not to us, who know of it already, but to the politicians (with the notable exception of Lt. Gov.r David Zuckerman) who evidently think farmers are too stupid to figure out social distancing during this pandemic.
Alan LePage