• Harvest Watch: Early signs of spring
    By Tara Kelly
    Correspondent | March 25,2013
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    It is a brutal time of year. The wind is cold, the snow keeps coming, and things thaw just to freeze over again the next day. When my kids announced spring is coming and began to count down the days I reminded myself only the young can get excited about a date on the calendar when winter clearly still has the upper-hand. I did my best to tune out their chatter about plans for swimming and baseball and bike riding. I consider the calendar arrival of spring to be a bit insidious. People begin to gripe that each day hats and gloves are required is “not supposed to be this way”. It’s a line of thinking that consumes precious energy for no good. I do better to keep my nose to the grindstone and celebrate spring when it actually arrives. But, I have to admit. There are signs.

    Walking along the river near my house a few weeks ago I noticed my neighbor’s sap buckets had frozen drips of sap in their spouts. Then sugar houses began to boil, the steam coming through their vents reminding me that the maple trees think spring is coming. Then there were the ants. When they began their annual march through my kitchen, my first reaction was one of welcome. Welcome ants, welcome spring.

    But, it wasn’t until this weekend that I started to believe. Things are changing.

    Sunday took me to Manchester with my family. A colleague from California was visiting his family in southern Vermont so we met half way to catch up on old times. As we drove through the Mettowee Valley along Route 30 the trees along the hillsides were definitely starting to look pink as their buds began to show. As we walked toward the Northshire Bookstore, my son stopped to show us all the shoots of flowers poking their heads through the mulch bordering the walkway. We then went to a Maple Open House event at Dutton Farm Stand where I noticed they were selling lettuce and swiss chard and kale from their greenhouses.

    OK, so spring is here.

    I suppose I shouldn’t be quite so surprised. The amount and variety of greens being sold at the winter farmers market in Rutland has been on the rise for several weeks now. Fliers and brochures announcing the sale of CSA shares have been showing up all around town. Vegetable farmers have been excitedly announcing they are no longer available for daytime meetings because they will be in their greenhouse all day. Farmers that raise animals for meat and fiber have been preparing for delivery of new pigs, sheep, chickens, goats and cows to replenish their stock for the coming months.

    Here in the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link office there are more signs of spring. Following our event last week where farmers and potential buyers of local foods from area restaurants, schools and food distributors met to talk about potential sales, our office is now fully focused on summer. We’ve been putting the final touches on this year’s Locally Grown Guide, planning a series of educational farm tours for the public, enrolling people into our farm to workplace programs, and outlining our summer workshops for farmers.

    We’ve also been planning for our fresh food gleaning and distribution program. This project collects produce from farmers around the county and delivers it to food shelves and meals programs that serve people in need of food. If you are a home gardener, consider planting an extra row in your garden for a neighbor or local food shelf. We’ll happily help you find people who would benefit from your donation as the summer progresses.

    As the dairy farmers around the county take stock of their feed inventory, waiting for that first truly spring day when they can pasture their animals, I’ll continue to take stock of the signs of spring and let optimism take root.
    Any day now, it will be spring.

    Tara Kelly is executive director of the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL).
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