It always amazes me how seeing something up close and personal can renew one’s perspective.
Take for example the High Ledge Farm in Calais, Vermont, which I visited with my 11 year old daughter and several classmates on a near-perfect Spring day in Vermont. Hitting over 60 degrees in March is reason to celebrate, and what better way than listening to a group of 5th grade girls interview a farmer about why he farms.
We arrived 10 minutes early and had to wait for a final classmate to arrive, which she did so by horseback, as her family lived only a couple miles away, and the day was too beautiful to waste inside a car.
We sat down with Paul Betz, who, along with his wife and two kids, has been farming on this three-acre farm since 1999. The land, which has significant outcroppings of ledge (rock), adds extra challenges to Vermont’s already difficult climate for growing food. But Paul, a tall, powerful man with a wonderful sense of humor and great nature has found a way to make it work using three fields, four greenhouses (one that converts to an ice rink in the winter), a tractor, and a lot of hard work.
Paul’s favorite vegetable to grow, out of the 40-50 varieties he plants, is the potato, which helps explain the 9,000 pounds he produces each year. He likes potatoes because they grow underground and it gives him great satisfaction knowing he is the first person to see each “prize” as he digs it up. His wife, Kate, is partial to garlic and onions since they represent the foundation of nearly every meal she makes.
High Ledge offers a CSA program serving about 25 local families. Paul also enjoys Saturday trips to the Montpelier’s Capital City Farmers Market, which for over 30 years has been one of the finest markets around. He mentions to the girls how he likes talking with people at the market and answering their questions, and estimates he has about 150 regulars who stop by his stall each and every week.
While farms such as High Ledge won’t factor into the large scale growth of real food we need, it was a great reminder of how important every farmer is in supporting such efforts.
Here’s to you, Paul, Kate and kids!
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