You know him for his delicious Butterworks yogurt. You might even know him as the man behind increased local grain products in Vermont — dry beans, oats, and the corn that makes the locally distilled Early Riser Corn Whiskey.
But what you can’t tell just from eating his delicious food, is that he’s an exceptional scholar, a persistent and optimistic farmer, and a remarkably generous soul. He honors all his mentors and collaborators, answers questions of the novice with earnest focus and delight, and is an inspiration to those who dream of farming for a living.
From a Few Cows to Farming for a Living
Butterworks Farm was started by Jack and Anne Lazor in 1979 with a few cows and yogurt prepared on their woodstove. Even though much has changed in the decades since their humble and adventurous beginnings, a deep reverence for the land holds true. He now farms hundreds of acres in pasture or grain crops and has ventured from stovetop production to over 9,000 quarts of yogurt a week and a myriad of other dairy and grain products. Yet with all the growth of the business and passage of time, his organic farming ethics, emphasis on soil health, and deep beliefs in local food systems remains strong.
At UVM, we are lucky to work with Jack on many fronts. He is a regular collaborator with Heather Darby at UVM Extension on her work and research for the Northwest Crops and Soils Program. He also works directly with aspiring farmers by hosting UVM Farmer Training Program students on his farm and teaching an Organic Grain Production Class for the Plant and Soil Science Department.
Because of his incredible warmth and endless wealth of knowledge, students of all backgrounds – undergrad, graduate, community members, UVM staff — flock to his class to soak up his wit and wisdom. From the nitty gritty production details to the historical context of agriculture in our region, he shares the kind of knowledge only years of experience and an insatiable curiosity can create.
Teaching Through Passion
I wonder, as I sit in the back of class watching Jack lecture joyfully on oat production and processing from his hand scribbled notes, if there is anything better than this in all of education. Not just a teacher that knows the topic like the back of his hand, but one who models innovation, optimism, creative problem solving, persistence, collaboration, and joy.
For the days that the challenges of sustainable food production seem overwhelming, one hour with Jack reminds me that an unflappable spirit and hard work can make incredible things happen. For this alone, all aspiring farmers and food systems nerds should make their way north to see this legend in his element.
You won’t regret it, and you might just walk away feeling like anything is possible.
Susie Walsh Daloz is the Director of the UVM Farmer Training Program.
Photo credit: Emily McManamy/Burlington Free Press