where creative minds can interact
My ears begin to pop as the pressure changed during our descent into the atmosphere directly over the green mountains. Having grown up
in areas predominantly near a city I was overwhelmed with the amount of green
that I saw beneath me. I can recall turning to my new wife and saying, where
are we going to land, there's nothing but trees down there? We'd made a slight
left banking out over Lake Champlain and began our downwind run into Burlington.
Naturally as we got closer to the city it was easier to see the more familiar
rooftops and parking lots of the downtown area however I knew that like an
asphalt oasis in the center of this thriving green ocean once we left the
greater Burlington area would be deep within the forest. Such are the whimsical
dreams of a man desperately wants to be away from the city, and so began my
journey into calling Vermont my home. That was 1985.
Wendy and I had rented a car at the Hertz desk within the Burlington international Airport, asked where we could get a decent cup of
coffee and then headed out to find some little town called Starksboro. Driving
out there was indeed an experience, I can recall vividly how once I crossed
Williston Road in South Burlington we were almost at once within farm country.
We continued along little two Lane Kennedy Dr. and made a left onto Route 116.
Within a few hundred yards I was to see the last reminiscent of industry in the
New England telephone building directly on my left. In sharp contrast the
entire field on the right side of the road was either planted with corn or
occupied with Holstein cows. That farm for several years would actually be a
joy for me to see, and it brought me great sadness when one day I noticed all
the livestock gone and a for sale sign jammed into the ground by the road,
almost like a stake through the heart.
Our first year we rented a home in the village of Starksboro and that in and of itself was a vast difference from anywhere else I have
lived. Not just the culture shock of moving from a county with almost 3,000,000
people in it into a town as large as that County but barely having 1,700 people
but also the fact that we could live in a place called a village and it was
everything one could possibly have imagined. Like a painting from Currier and
Ives it was the quaint village store, a white clapboard church, a smattering of
likewise clap-boarded homes replete with smoke billowing from the chimneys and
last but not least pastureland occupied by dairy cows and a few horses. I'm not
sure what that town looked like prior to our arrival and I would like to think
and believe that my moving their in no way changed its physical appearance. I
was quick to discover that most employment was to be had in the big city of
Burlington and so that is where I set off for each morning, often before the
sun came out and returning home near dark. It was often a 35 minute drive
however I relished this quiet and peaceful scenery as it passed me by and many
times I would stop by the side of the road to just take in the beauty of it all
and to thank God that I was able to experience this wonderful place.
Years pass by and slowly Burlington would reach out fingers like a Dragon's claws and scrape away at the landscape making room for more
cookie-cutter houses and stupid little street signs made to look like they were
quaint and country like even though they were anything but. South Burlington grew
to the point bursting, spewing its innards all over the Townships of Hinesburg,
St. George and Williston. That pasture I first fell in love with is now long
gone and the callous way in which the land has been raped all in the name of
progress sickens me to the core. That is a large part of the reason why my
hackle raises when someone who does not know me lumps me in to the category of
greedy flatlander because I was not born in the beautiful state of Vermont.
Ironically I personally have gone above and beyond to prevent further
development where ever I could. I have spoken up in act 250 meetings (environmental
regulation), I have carried picket signs, and I have been to Montpelier, our
capitol, my fist in the air shouting to the current administration that the
only preservation for Vermont would be to cease and desist the rapid building
and the wanton destruction of the land.
I have heard more than one Vermonter saythat the state of Vermont is really just a state of mind however I think to differ. It has become
my experience over these last 25 1/2 years that the people and the land are
inseparable and should remain that way. Culturally historic Vermont is not
about being backwards or being redneck, it is about being tenacious and having
a greater respect for the soil beneath your feet and the plants that spring out
of it; than for the financial possibility that the land could produce.
Prior to reentering college this past year in an effort to obtain my teaching degree I have had the great opportunity and at the same time
great challenge of working with and on several farms in Addison and Chittenden
counties. I have worked with dairy herd improvement [DHIA] in an effort to
assist Vermont's last great heroes, her farming families. Utilizing new science
technique's and old world philosophy DHI helps farmers to obtain the most from
the precious ground that they have in such a manner that they are not polluting
and resorting to the chemical confusion of nutrients from some factory in
Secaucus, New Jersey.
Memories. I can vividly recall the smell and sound of a milking parlor. It was just about 4:15 in the morning and the dew settled
thickly on the grass making my barn boots slick as I walked through it. The
heifers were already in their stalls and we're moving gently as I passed him them.
Two small calves, one born just an hour ago and one the previous night were in
a small pen at the end of the barn. Their mothers close by as I spoke softly to
Daniel about them. From the light in his eyes you would swear he was the proud
papa instead of just the caretaker for the grounds and the animals that live on
it. At the Kayhart Dairy there are just 35 head being milked, hardly enough to
keep the farm afloat. Daniels said, "Farming was never about money, this
place belonged to my father and his father. I'd like it to belong to my son but
like me, if he's going to farm this land is probably going to have to work in
town also." We both worked together in doing the milking and me taking
samples of the fresh milk and grain to be sent down to DHIA for analysis.
Around five o'clock his wife came in with hot coffee and biscuits for us both.
Dan laughed and asked if I wanted a little cream in my coffee and if so I was
welcome to scoop a little out of the pail. I must say that was the best coffee
I've ever had. As he and I continue to work the sun slowly crested the horizon
and entered through the open barn doors illuminating the hay on the floor with
its golden light. Starlings flitted in and out of the barn, their silhouette
clear in the morning sun. As we both finished our work he invited me to stay
for breakfast for which I was obliged. We put the girls out to pasture, closed
up the bulk tank and set out for the house and naturally farm inspired
That scene took place in the spring of 2003. To the best of my knowledge, the Kayhart’s still farm the land and still only have about 20 or
30 cows in the barn. Sometimes not much has changed since the early days of
Vermont however you just have to know where to look for them and try to see
past the glittering expanse of sprawl that seems to move like an infestation of
not just the countryside but our very way of life. I hope it never comes down
to the time when Vermont will be little more than a memory obtained from a book
or the passing of verbal history. We must do everything we can to preserve not
just a way of life but a piece of America that is our roots and our future. My
greatest wish I have for my children is that youth will have the opportunity to
experience farm life and not just the quaint portion of the labor as well;
because it is a labor of love and it may be the only way they will truly learn
to respect what happens when they place their hands on the land.