Scenic farm

Mountains are visible through the mist near a local Vermont farm.

It’s 5 a.m. The beautiful Vermont sunrise blankets the mountains and crops, bringing a new wave of hope over the green mountains.

And among Vermont’s proud small farms, Blue Spruce Farm prepares not only to milk its herd, but also for a new audience.

Beginning May 12, the beauty of Vermont will not just be something heard, written or sung about. #Farm24VT may be short in hashtag, but farmers throughout the state will be showing why Vermont and its cultivators are not only honorable and formidable, but proud in their craft.

“Maybe more than any other recent year, the events of 2020, still being felt by many today, showcased the important role farmers play in maintaining and improving our communities. When consumers were hit with empty store shelves due to supply chain issues, it was local farmers who stepped up to donate food, found new avenues for sales, and expanded the channels through which they helped to feed Vermont and beyond,” said Sarah Audet, of the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition.

The event is modeled after another widely-popular initiative in the UK called 24 Hours in Farming. The Vermont version is made possible by the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition and the Connecticut River Farmer Watershed Alliance, with support from Vermont Breakfast on the Farm.

The hashtag represents a 24-hour social media celebration of agriculture, food and dairy in Vermont, starting at 5 a.m. on May 12. Participating farmers, food producers and agribusinesses will share photos, videos and stories to give people a behind the scenes look at what they do.

Just over 55 farms and agribusinesses are currently participating in the inaugural event. In addition to taking a pledge on the #Farm24VT website, farmers are encouraged to join an online farmers support group and take part in workshops put together in partnership with New England Dairy.

The event itself is not only a workshop event for farmers, but is also meant to be a draw for those aware of the brand of Vermont that are looking to possibly find a way in.

“Our goal is to reach up to 2 million people in Vermont, New York and beyond,” Audet said of the initiative’s online audience targets.

Locally, Aires-Hill Farm and Creamery in Berkshire, Runamok Maple in Fairfield and Poulin Grain in Swanton are among participating businesses. Organizers are hoping it can be an annual event to showcase the behind the scenes work of Vermont’s farmers.

“This is a safe and easier way to make farm tours happen,” Audet said.

Audet said the event was first advertised in December, with farmers actively being recruited starting in January. She herself will be participating, along with her husband, who owns Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport.

“It’s exciting to see that people are so passionate about Vermont foods,” she said.

And that excitement goes hand in hand with dollar signs. According to Audet, Vermonters spend more than $166.22 per person per year on local food — the highest in the country. State data puts the output of Vermont’s food system at $11 billion.

“[In the pandemic] people were really able to turn to their local farmers and producers, and we are hoping that people keep that strong reliance and deep connection,” Audet said.

For much of the day, prizes such as Vermont food and farm products will be given away to participating individuals, including a two-night stay at Parker Hill Farm & Boutique Campground in Springfield, where you can go glamping with alpacas. Prizes will be announced at the top of every hour on #Farm24VT social media feeds, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“What we are trying to do is showcase the Vermont brand, but what’s more, give Vermont’s heart a chance to tell her story,” Audet said. “Her heart is her farmers.”

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