On a bike ride today, my daughters and I stopped by the Stowe Farmers Market, where I was known for years as the Root Beer Float Woman. I also peddled one heck of a lot of maple syrup there. I vended there for 14 years, beginning when I was pregnant for the first time and ending when that daughter was 13. That girl pretty much grew up summers in the market, and I spent awful lot of Sundays serving up homemade ice cream with a baby either on my back or nearby, underfoot.
Today, we were merely visitors, buying sausage and cookies. I stopped to talk with a woman whose own children are long past the toddler years. I knew she and her husband had bought a farm, worked themselves as hard as humanly possible, and ended up downsizing, downsizing, downsizing, overburdened by debt, and eventually selling the greater chunk of the farm. I remembered the day they signed on that farm. I served on the board then, and we drank champagne in celebration.
Lying on the grass, later today, with my teenage daughter, staring up at Stowe’s pristine church steeple, I told my daughter that story – and more, many more. As I did, I realized just how hard so many of these farm women I knew worked. Over and over, I came up with names of women who were savvy and creative, and believed in the saving virtue of hard work with their hands.
Like everyone, all of these women have met hard times, but I would consider none of these females failures, each meeting her fate with some kind of rugged grace. It’s been a handful of years since I sold a drop of sweet stuff – maple or ice cream – at the farmers market, yet it’s also a place I still think of as home.
Only 8 percent of the country’s farms produce 72 percent of the national harvest. This is where the subsidies go. Agribusiness is concentrating so quickly that in the near future our global retail food system may be controlled by five or six firms – in America perhaps it will be WalMart…. So why fight it? Why not? And that’s what the farm women of Vermont and America are involved in…. In the face of agribusiness intent on controlling the global food supply, you could call these women working activists.
– Peter Miller, Vermont Farm Women, 2002