By Caroline Abels
With newspapers folding left and right, magazines being published largely by urbanities, and the public dialogue being out-Foxed and oversimplified, what’s a farmer to do?
A farmer, you say? Indeed. How is a Vermont farmer supposed to get her story out in this depressing media culture? She could angle for space in shrinking newspapers, try to catch the interest of urban-based magazines, or do the impossible and grab five minutes before a camera on cable television. But none of that is likely to happen.
Instead, farmers who grow local food for local populations have to rely on local media to share their challenges, frustrations, and joys with their neighbors. And over the past three years, one local media source has been dedicated to telling farmers’ stories: Vermont’s Local Banquet, a quarterly magazine about small-scale farming and food production in Vermont. It’s a 100% local publication (edited, published, and printed in-state). It illuminates how the “localvore” movement is growing in Vermont, and how that movement, in turn, is shaping what Vermont looks like and what its people eat.
I’ve had the honor of being the editor of Local Banquet since its launch in 2007. (I took the job just after graduating from Antioch New England and just before joining the board of Whole Terrain.) Farmers’ stories are represented throughout each issue of Local Banquet. So are stories about tasty local food products and unusual crops. People write about how to garden better and engage in do-it-yourself food growing projects. In short, readers get a bird’s-eye view of the transformations taking place on farms, within communities, and inside people’s kitchens.
They aren’t farmers, but on Thursday evening at the Starving Artist Collective in Keene, a handful of writers for Local Banquet will read from their articles – articles that illuminate the way people farm and eat in Vermont. It’s writers like these who farmers and eaters (which is to say, all of us) can learn from and share their stories through. It’s writers like these who are essential to an understanding of how Vermont agriculture is changing and what that means for all of us in this region.
At the Thursday event (which starts at 8 pm at 10 West St.) we’ll be serving bites of local goodies – raw milk cheese, maple syrup, sausage, root vegetables – to accompany the readings. Come on out, have a chew, and hear emerging voices in local food and farm writing – voices that can’t be heard in many places in our culture but that articulate what we all need to hear.
Caroline Abels is editor of Vermont’s Local Banquet. She is an independent writer and editor, and a graduate of the Environmental Advocacy & Organizing Program at Antioch University New England in Keene, N.H. Her interest in local food issues was sparked after moving to Vermont for graduate school, when she discovered milk for sale in glass bottles and met the farmer who sold her eggs.