We have a friend named Morgan. Morgan is a farmer; with his wife Jen he milks about 80 head across the valley. A few years back, they transitioned to organic, and seem to be doing pretty well. You don’t get rich milking cows, but if you’re smart about things and work hard, you can do ok.
Morgan is at our place about every other month or so, helping us with one project or another. He owns two 100-plus horsepower tractors, which are really handy when you get a concrete truck stuck or need to move a barn (we did this last fall; we broke three chains and had great fun), or need to get 12,000-pounds of hay from one farm to another. The latter we did just yesterday, in a snowstorm, my two-year-old son Rye and I following Morgan in the Chevy, watching as the loaded wagon slithered down the slushy road.
Morgan’s dad is Melvin (and his two older brothers are named Martin and Matthew; the younger, incongruously, is named Jeremy). Melvin lives just down the road. For years, he plowed our 1300-foot driveway and charged us $25. This morning it gave me great pleasure to get up early, plow our drive, then continue down to Melvin’s and plow his. He came out of the barn and leaned against the doorjamb, watching. “I appreciate it,” he said.
There’s a lot of doom-and-gloom talk about the demise of farming in Vermont. I’m not saying it’s wrong; the small-to-medium conventional farms are struggling mightily. But there is also a growing subset of diversified and organic producers that remain vital. How long this can last is anyone’s guess. I’d like to think it’s going to be a long, long time.