It was less than three weeks ago that my 11 year-old daughter and her 5th grade classmates were sitting with Paul Betz on his porch at High Ledge Farm.
They were interviewing him about why he farms, what he likes best about it, and other questions as part of their school social studies project: “What is the system that gets food from the farms to our tables?” In the background, Kate Camellitti and her son played foosball on the other side of the porch. The sun was shining bright, the ground was waking up from the Vermont winter, and seedlings were growing in the greenhouse.
What Paul told the kids was he farms because he really likes getting his hands dirty (especially digging out potatoes), being able to work at home, and the down time he gets between growing seasons. What stood out to me, especially since my wife and I have witnessed it first hand at the Capital City Farmers Market, is how much Paul enjoys talking with his customers, answering their questions, and helping them understand more about where their food comes from. To us, Paul represents the type of farmer we need a lot more of – part steward, part educator, part friend.
Clearly, the 2009 farming season for Paul was picking up steam, and he was happy.
Then the unexpected changed everything.
Their 500-gallon propane tank exploded, spreading fire across nearly every structure on the farm, destroying their 1880 farm house, greenhouses and vehicles. Fortunately, Paul was away that day and escaped injury or even worse. But nearly everything was lost…except their determination to clean up and move forward. A heroic family with an incredibly supportive community behind them (read Seven Days and Times Argus to learn more).
There is still much we can do to support the rebuilding of High Ledge Farm, and the sooner the better since much of Paul & Kate’s income depends on what was destroyed. To learn more about what you can do, please visit High Mowing Seeds, which is helping coordinate donations of time, food, money, etc.