This morning, we packed up in one of the college's hybrid cars with a few of our regular garden volunteers and took a field trip! We visited Sterling College in Craftsbury, VT to tour their farms and gardens and to learn about their unique programs. Growing, processing, and serving food is an essential part of the workings of the college. Students take part in all aspects of this process as part of coursework, independent projects, or campus jobs. We met some pigs, sheep, chickens, cows, and draft horses and learned about their various functions on campus ranging from egg and meat production, to fiber production, to experimental academic projects, to literally providing "horse power" necessary for logging and maple sugaring. After the main tour, we were treated to a delicious lunch prepared from local foods in the dining hall. For some of us, lunch may have been the highlight of the day! After lunch, we visited the gardens. It was great to see another garden and compare it to the progress of our own. It is refreshing to see that others are facing many of the same challenges our garden faces. However, we were most astonished by their lack of any fencing to protect their crops!! While rabbits are a nearly daily struggle in our garden, they are practically absent from the Sterling garden. We were jealous of their beautiful carrots (ours are recovering, but slowly)!
On the way home, we stopped at the High Mowing Trial Fields in Wolcott, VT. We nearly exclusively use High Mowing seeds in our garden, because they are both local and organic and have many excellent varieties to choose from. In the trial fields, High Mowing tests new varieties and growing methods to perfect their seed products. It was fun to try to identify the varieties based on our knowledge of their seed catalog! We saw many familiar varieties but also some new ones, such as beautiful purple bell peppers, dark purple tomatoes, and yellow watermelons! The trial fields are meticulously groomed by machinery and everything looked absolutely perfect. The rows were raised beds, perfectly level and free of weeds. It was actually nice to see that a few of their plants were being affected by pests, just like ours! We definitely took note of their tomato trellising system, and hopefully our tomato beds will look a little less like an untamed jungle next year! It was easy to become discouraged by the seeming perfection of these gardens, but we remind ourselves that our garden is worked by hand, without the benefit of large machinery.
It was a great day to gain some perspective on gardening in Vermont and make connections with like-minded people.