Farm Numbers Show Positive Trends

Published 02/21 2014 07:08PM

Updated 02/21 2014 07:26PM

WILLISTON, Vt. - While Terry Marron now specializes in culinary herbs and fresh cut flowers at Windstone Farm in Williston, her focus used to be stamps.

"I worked for the post office for twenty years, and just decided it was time to start a new venture," Marron said.

That was in 2009, and new census data shows she wasn't alone in making a switch. In the past five years, the number of farms in Vermont increased five percent.

For Mary Peabody, a UVM Extension professor teaching aspiring farmers the ropes, the numbers are rewarding.

"This gives us some validation for the work that we do and it helps us in recruiting additional new farmers to say, you know, they can be in the next census numbers," Peabody said.

Marron says she knew how to plant seeds, but needed help with the business side of farming. UVM programs and mentors gave her a leg up.

"They could come to the farm, your farm, looked at what you had and would give great advice," Marron said.

The number of farms in Vermont isn't the only increase in the census data. The number of female farmers is also going up. Up by twelve percent, in fact.

"I think it's exciting to see that type of diversification in the ownership and the people who are coming into it whether its women, new Americans, young people," said Travis Marcotte, executive director of Burlington’s Intervale Center.

"There's always been a lot of women on farms that have had very active roles and now they're feeling they're getting the education and technical assistance they need to step up," Peabody says.

Marron said her classes not only included women, but people of all ages and aspirations.

"It was a great mix and we all kind of learned from each other," Marron said. Some think this is just the beginning.

"The numbers are really encouraging. I think they're still under reported. I think the numbers are even higher and I think in future censuses these are trends we'll continue to see,” says Peabody.

New Hampshire farms also increased five percent in the past five years, while New York decreased three percent. Most of the new farms are of the smaller variety specializing in fruits and veggies as opposed to more traditional, sprawling dairy farms.

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