By Laura Hardie
On a sunny Saturday morning, cicadas buzzed in a nearby field, and the smell of sweet pancakes filled the air. Young children laughed as newly born calves tested out their wobbly legs and gave them salty kisses, and the kids’ faces full of awe when they learned that those newborn calves could walk within 20 minutes of being born.
Photo credit: Vermont Breakfast on the Farm
It was the second annual Breakfast on the Farm event at Green Mountain Dairy Farm in Sheldon. More than 1,000 people turned out to enjoy one of Vermont’s growing traditions. Green Mountain Dairy Farm was one of two dairy farms to host Breakfast on the Farm events in 2016. The other was Nea-Tocht Farm in Ferrisburgh. In total, more than 2,000 people came out to enjoy a day of education and fun.
The Breakfast on the Farm tradition continues in 2017 with two events slated for June and July. The first will take place at Fairmont Farm in East Montpelier on June 17. The second is being hosted by Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport on July 22. You can reserve your free tickets at vermontbreakfastonthefarm.com.
Breakfast on the Farm marks just one in a list of flourishing agritourism events taking hold in the Green Mountain State. Vermont Open Farm Week is another that allows the public to appreciate the agricultural industry thriving in the state, and the work being done to protect and improve Vermont’s working lands. Vermont Open Farm Week will be August 14-20. During Open Farm Week, you can meet the farmers, whether vegetable, beef or dairy, that bring your favorite high-quality Vermont products to your plate. You can find lists of participating farms at www.diginvt.com.
“When people get information about how their food is made straight from the source—the farmer—they feel empowered about their food choices, and feel good about the food they are purchasing at the grocery store,” said Dr. Julie Smith, a veterinarian and professor with UVM’s Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences. “It’s those relationships that will help dairy farmers to be successful and allow them to continue to make a source of local food for Vermonters.”
The Economics of Dairy Farming
Dairy farming generates $2.2 billion in economic activity in the state of Vermont. That’s milk and other dairy products sold, products sold through agricultural businesses—equipment dealers for example—and income generated from tourism. According to the economic assessment, “Milk Matters: The Role of Dairy in Vermont,” dairy farms are key to attracting more than 13.5 million visitors to Vermont each year.
That’s where Breakfast on the Farm comes into play. The event aims to create a relaxed and educational atmosphere geared toward visitors of every age. About one-third of attendees are kids age 18 and under. Each event morning starts out with a free pancake breakfast, followed by a self-guided tour. Visitors follow a map and experience a variety of educational stations which touch on everything from care for animals, to soil and water quality, to renewable energy created right on the farm. Throughout the tour visitors will interact and chat with knowledgeable volunteers with a wealth of dairy experience.
Survey results from both 2015 and 2016 show Breakfast on the Farm creates a bigger impact on first time visitors. Dairy farmers continue to come up with innovative ways to be successful, while protecting their animals, products, and land. This event is the perfect opportunity to showcase those advances.
For visitors 18 and over, about a quarter say they’ve never been to a farm before. And another quarter have only been on a farm one to two times in their lives. These are the visitors that are so important. Survey results from the past two years show that topics such as treating animals humanely, and keeping milk safe were two areas of impression that improved because of the visits to Breakfast on the Farm.
For more information, visit vermontbreakfastonthefarm.com
-Laura Hardie is a seventh-generation Vermonter from Waterbury and works as a public relations and communications specialist for the New England Dairy Promotion Board.