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Fitzgerald: Stone Walls

I was opening up a new field for vegetable production with our small tractor when my single bottom plow disturbed a large rock, creating a fair-sized hole. On my next pass, my tire slid into that gaping hole and I was stuck.

Chains, shovels, digging bars, help from my partner, and some choice words for that rock got the tractor unstuck, and we hauled the boulder over to the stone wall, adding it to the long line of stones that generations of farmers have piled there before me.

As a farmer, the stonewalls that mark the boundary of my farm give me a sense of time, anchoring me to right now as just one farmer in a long line of farmers who have already tended this land, and who will in the future. But unlike with the traditional Vermont farmer, this stone wall wasn't tying me to my ancestors, because I don't come from an agrarian family. In these days of small, diversified farms sprouting up all around Vermont, I’m becoming less of an anomaly as a young, woman farmer from a suburban childhood.

As a kid, my parents sent me to a farm camp to spend a few weeks milking cows, weeding gardens, collecting eggs, and feeding pigs. It was bit of a shock for my clean suburban sneakers, but I was amazed to discover that milk came from cows, not plastic jugs and that working directly for my food was fulfilling. I wanted to work in that space between the dirt and the dinner table. Even before the momentum of the local food movement took hold, when farms and farmers were disappearing like an animal on the endangered species list, I knew I had an agricultural calling.

A decade later when the farm camp family invited my partner, my goat, and me to live at the farm and help with animal chores, sugaring, logging, and haying, it was a dream come true. They generously offered us some of their land to earn an income, and to my greenhorn sensibilities it seemed like growing vegetables was the fastest way to pay my car insurance.

We borrowed a book from the library about how to start a Community Supported Agriculture business, plowed up an acre, and decided we would be vegetable farmers. One successful season held together by hard work, creek bed soil, and beginner's luck led to another, and we were hooked. We eventually moved our expanding business to central Vermont, and then there I was, standing on a stone wall, admiring the new artifact we had just added to our Vermont farm's personal museum honoring the work of past farmers.

Maybe one hundred years from now, the farmers who add their rocks to this wall will be my children's children, but maybe they won't. Either way, I hope someone will be there to do it.

Kara Fitzgerald runs Evening Song Farm, a small biodynamic vegetable farm with her partner in Cuttingsville.
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