Recently I spent seven months travelling around New Zealand. What a landscape! Agriculture as far as the eye can see. Sheep dot the classic green hillsides, vineyards have emerged as one of the major export industries, cow dairies have sprung up like weeds, and fruits and vegetables are grown in abundance. I couldn’t wait to taste the bounty of this land at the local farmer’s markets, the restaurants or at the very least, pick up some fresh produce or cheese at the local store. To my surprise, even though I was surrounded by a thriving agricultural landscape, I could scarcely get my hands on anything fresh and truly local. After much inquiry and exasperation I discovered that 95% of what New Zealand produces is exported and that New Zealanders are usually left with the worst cuts of meats and ‘second’ hand food at a very high price. I had expected to be sucked into the wonderful world of New Zealand agriculture never to be spit back out again, but instead I found myself eager to come back to Vermont, where even though our growing season is only 6 months of the year, I can still get my hands on fresh nutritious food year-round. This is due to the thriving diverse farming community that I live in in Central, Vermont. While I help run a farm we do not produce all that we need to sustain ourselves and we rely heavily on our other neighbor farms to help round-out our diet for the year. On any given day I can get a hold of fresh meat of any kind (including goat meat), fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruits, milk, cheese, sweets (maple syrup, honey and caramel), and other homemade goods like granola and fresh bread. About 90% of my diet can be accessed within a 15 mile range of my home. Our agricultural community comprises a variety of farms and businesses some of who have formed a group called The Floating Bridge Food and Farms Cooperative.
The group takes its name from the renowned Floating Bridge located in Brookfield, Vermont built in 1820. The only floating bridge east of the Mississippi, it spans scenic Sunset Lake in the center of charming Brookfield Village.
Individual member businesses offer locally produced farm products, farm tours, cooking classes, on-farm workshops, events, farm vacation packages, and farmstays. On any given day you could attend a hands-on cheese making class, eat locally produced food at Ariel’s restaurant, cut down your own Christmas tree, learn how to dye wool with natural plants or stop by a farm during kidding season and play with all the baby goats.
Summer is a great time of year to visit Central Vermont and experience life on a farm. While we may not be growing too many kiwis yet, we are a vibrant and active group of farmers and entrepreneurs who want to ensure that everyone has access to good food and a connection to the farmers and land. See our list of farms and local businesses at www.floatingbridgefoodandfarms.com Check out our intro trail to the area http://www.diginvt.com/trails/detail/floating-bridge-food-and-farms-trail
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