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Harrington: Winter Farewell Winter Farewell_012113_Elaine Harrington.mp3

(Host) A Middlesex farmer who was providing an array of healthy food to her neighbors recently passed away. Commentator Elaine Harrington remembers Darlene Martin, and her place in the community.

(Harrington) At the foot of our hill on Center Road in Middlesex, Darlene's black horse,Banner, stands patiently out in the barnyard. Soft snowflakes fall on his back as he waits near the barn with its unusual stick-built silo. He looks across the road at the farmhouse, seeming to wonder when Darlene will be out for a visit. But she isn't coming. Life for Banner - and for the chickens, beef cattle, barn cats, and humans on the Persons Farm - has paused for a bit as the old year ends.

Darlene Persons Martin, age 62, passed away at home in mid-December and, on a recent Saturday, dozens of family and friends came through a snowstorm for the open house hosted by her husband Steve. She will be missed.

After work in construction and the ski industry, Darlene had spent 12 years restoring pastures and bringing beef and poultry to the farm that her parents came to in 1955. She loved to hay, driving the tractor in perfect contoured loops around the hay field on hot summer days. She rode her horses often, and drove an ATV to high meadows to repair fences or to check on animals in pasture.

Knee problems came, but replacements gave the white-haired woman new energy for the daily tasks of farming. Her wide smile greeted passers-by - much like the smiles of Maynard, her dad, and Robert, her uncle - when they'd run the place as a dairy farm.

Darlene and Steve created a diverse agricultural business, in a labor of love - providing neighbors with grass-fed beef, rich eggs, and the best maple syrup.

Her Uncle Robert had hayed well into his 90s - so the 240-acre farm had a model of aging in place. Last summer, Darlene said an old chair that sat in our field with a view of Mt. Hunger was Robert's chair - for the half-century of haying that he'd done here.

Then last spring she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. But it didn't change her attitude toward life and work. For her birthday - a perfect May afternoon - she organized a festive pig roast in the apple orchard. A few days later, she soared in low loops over the farm and fields in a red bi-plane. Steve said they were working on her to do list.

On July 31st Darlene drove the tractor to cut and ted hay, and she cared for her animals into late fall. One day in October, while feeding the horses, she told me, Today is a good day.

In December she had settled into her house for the final days, with help from family and friends. Still showing a smile and a blue-eyed flash of humor, she was preparing to finish her life on the farm that she loved.

Steve takes care of Banner now, and Robert's chair is just a bump under the snowy drifts in our field - but Darlene's memory and her contribution to our neighborhood will weather the seasons.

The late Elaine Keen Harrington of Middlesex was a lecturer in the English Department at the University of Vermont. A former editor for the Rutland Herald and Times Argus, she also owned a fiber arts business.
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