BURLINGTON — Rural Vermont is engaging Vermonters in a statewide conversation about land use, livelihood, food and Vermont’s future through a “Community Conversations” tour called Groundswell. The next stop on the tour is free event on April 19th at ArtsRiot in Burlington, from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. The conversations are led by Rural Vermont’s farmer-leaders who present a vision for an agricultural economy that “delivers health and vitality to farmers, eaters, soil, environment and community.”
Rural Vermont was founded in the 1980’s in response to failed federal farm policies, falling milk prices, and rising costs and property taxes. Its original mission was to assist farmers with legal and financial problems, but soon branched into other areas and became a platform for farmers to speak out. They were instrumental in the reform of the Current Use Program, and helped create the Northeast Dairy compact that controlled dairy pricing at a regional level. They also helped to quash state implementation of the National Animal Identification System, a federal plan to ear-tag and track every head of domestic livestock in the U.S., which would have placed a burden on small farmers in particular.
Rural Vermont has helped farmers with issues from on-farm slaughter, exemptions from local ordinances for working farm (herd) dogs vis a vis leash and barking laws while they perform their duties. They have supported and reported on raw milk sales and challenges, and they spearheaded the Farm to Plate initiative with which most Vermonter’s are quite familiar.
Attendees at Groundswell events are invited to identify priorities, barriers and pathways to systemic change at individual, community and statewide levels. Artist Erik Gillard takes “graphic notes” and creates a unique cartoon for each community.
The gathering at ArtsRiot will include light fare, a cash bar and music during breaks. Rural Vermont offers limited farmer and childcare stipends to assist farmers and families to participate.