Right about now, most of us are happy to get out of the cold and blowing snow for a little while. And for three days - from the 27th of February to March 1st, the Vermont Flower Show invites us to do just that. The theme this year is Spring Reflections, and the goal is to inspire ideas for the gardening season ahead.
2014 was a bumper year for tomatoes in my garden, and most of my vegetables grew with abandon. Believe it or not, I'm still eating lettuce and other greens from my cold-frame as well as kale, chard, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli from my community garden plot. I cover the cold-frame to protect the plants from freezing rain and cold to extend the growing season. The vegetables that struggled the most were eggplants and peppers due to the cooler than normal temperature - but we had a good berry year.
For more than twenty five years, I've been gardening at the Tommy Thompson Community Garden in the Intervale in Burlington. During that time, I've taught classes for new gardeners as well as learning as much as I've taught, especially from immigrants from countries like Bosnia and Nicaragua. Aika Sarkosova of the Ukraine has given me heirloom tomato seeds from her country of origin. The Mai family from Vietnam has taught me how to grow and prepare Asian greens.
My good friend of many years, Ash Eames of Wentworth, New Hampshire died recently. But for a good part of his life, Ash was involved in community development work and the peace and justice movement in Nicaragua. And I believe that his legacy - along with that of countless others - could be instructive in helping us respond to the plight of thousands of unaccompanied children now streaming across the Texas border. They come from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras - but not, as it happens, Nicaragua.
For seven years, Branch Out Burlington - a group that encourages people to plant new trees and care for them - has welcomed spring by offering bare-root trees for sale to the public at reasonable prices. The trees are grown at the tree nursery at UVM's Horticulture Farm in South Burlington. In addition, an all-volunteer group transplants trees from the nursery to sites along the streets of Burlington. The Tree Keepers, as they're called, plant and care for the trees in order to increase the number of trees in the Queen City and improve our precious green spaces.
Recently, the Burlington Free Press reported that "Vermont's 10-year goal of adding 1,700 farm-to-plate related jobs has been met in just four and a half years, with credit given to consumer demand." These numbers came from the 2013 annual report of Farm to Plate, an initiative designed to boost the food and farm economy in Vermont. The food manufacturing sector experienced the most growth. Vermont Smoke and Cure, for example, moved into a 21,000 square facility in Hinesburg - nearly triple the size of the original plant in Barre.
In Vermont, there are many farm and food projects taking place - from Farmers' Markets and upscale restaurants serving local food, to Food Hubs and CSA's. They're in the news every day, but here are three initiatives that you don't often hear much about.
I've often heard it said that families that sit down together for an evening meal have lots to talk about. And recently, when I was having supper with friends, the family's young daughter raised the question, "why don't we have a right to know what's in our food." I wasn't surprised since I know how inquisitive she is and how much she likes to ask questions. And the fact is that her question is being asked today by many people across the country, especially when it comes to genetically modified ingredients.
I met Colonel Harlan Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame while attending the University of Kentucky in 1962. The Colonel sat down with my parents and me at one of his restaurants in Lexington, Kentucky. He wore his famous white suit and string tie and looked exactly as he did in his pictures.
Back then, of course, they were still called Kentucky Fried Chicken - but in today's health conscious world, "Fried" is no longer politically correct so now they're known simply as "KFC."