Rural Vermont is truly idyllic. I spent the majority of my days outdoors with limited access to the internet or cell service. From weeding sprawling patches of thyme in the rain to digging up hundreds of garlic bulbs from the soil by hand, I realized the meaning of pausing and appreciating each moment I spent with the earth. Of course, things were not always smooth sailing. I will never forget the time I forgot to latch the door to the duck coop and had to herd all the ducklings back from a nearby stream, or the time the sheep stampeded over the electric fence when they ran out of fresh grazing pasture while I was watering the garden, or getting stung by a swarm of yellowjackets when I disturbed their nest while moving baby chicks into an A-frame.
There were definitely instances when my determination wavered – finding yourself shoulder-deep in a dirt hole after trying to dig up a spiky, wild blackberry root for hours with no success really tests your resolve – but I am grateful for it all. Getting to literally reap the fruits of your labor is truly rewarding, and few sights are as gratifying as the sunset over the garden after a long, exhausting day of work.
Over the course of my time in Vermont, I visited many small, organic farms and homesteads in the surrounding area in order to gain insight into different approaches and perspectives. One of the most challenging parts about this project was interviewing and taking photos of people I had just met or barely knew. Farmers and homesteaders are extremely busy people, so I worried I would be intruding on their time or space. However, I found that when you show genuine desire to learn from and listen to others, they are almost always more than happy to talk to you. Moreover, by sharing my own experience with farming, I was able to connect with my subjects on a personal level, which allowed me to more authentically portray their stories. Through spending time with both seasoned farmers and beginning gardeners, I discovered that although each person had unique reasons for valuing locally grown organic food, the sense of community built around a shared passion for local farming and sustainable food systems was palpable. Everywhere I drove, the roads were lined with small farms and backyard vegetable gardens.