It is easy to look at the scenery of Vermont, especially in the Fall, like it is just another pretty picture in a tourist magazine. Why? Because it really looks like that, and, of course, because much of it is actually stunningly gorgeous—”like something you might see in a magazine!” But behind that idealized image is a real, living landscape—one that is dynamic and vulnerable and compelling.
During the mid-1800s over 90% of the state was cleared of forests, mainly for farming, especially to pasture sheep. Then the wool market collapsed and many farmers moved to the easier, richer farms in the midwest. Today Vermont is 75% covered in forests and every remaining farm field must be periodically mowed if it is to remain free of trees. Of course many old farms have also grown into the suburbs—proverbial 10 acre lots and houses and lawns mowed on weekends by commuters.
But it is still easy to look at older farm buildings, whether now in use or abandoned, and see into the past and the people who farmed there, the sounds they made, the seasons their families and neighbors honored. Scenes like I posted a couple weeks ago of the young farm boy driving the cows home for milking are not uncommon.
And, I’m thankful to report, that now a whole new crop of young farmers (just three of many examples here and here and here) have grown onto the land, farming more smartly than in the past and diversely, figuring out how they can be supported by the land and support the land in the crazy economic times in which we live.
When I walk the back roads of Central Vermont, I don’t just see a dying landscape. I see one that is changing and very much alive where the beauty
of the place remains, no matter the season or the weather.