Reflections in the Aftermath of Irene :: A Tribute to Our Farmers

Sunset over the Tiny House, the evening before Irene hit Vermont.

Today brings another day of rain.  As I use the opportunity indoors to catch up on email and news, I find myself poring over the videos and photos documenting the damage that Hurricane Irene left in its wake.

The Sunday that Irene hit Vermont was a day similar to today, one in which I was enjoying a soothing, hot cup of tea and not worrying too much about the rain, regardless of its relentless consistency.  I thought to myself, “What’s all the fuss?  No strong winds and just some rain.  We’ll be fine.”

But I was wrong.

Vermont was hit hard.  Mother Nature came frantically rushing into our rivers & fields, our homes & schools, our community centers & businesses.  She arrived angst-ridden and ailing, as if trying to break through to us, pounding her fist down on our kitchen tables, knocking our cups of tea aside, and shouting, “Wake Up!”.

The Aftermath

Explosive flash flooding wreaks havoc, chaos, and major loss in an unforgiving and swift manner.  Disbelief follows so much lost in such a short time.  Faint marks of muck remain on shores and walls, meek shadows of the fury that just took lives, stripped entire fields from the land, tore freshly laid roads to pieces, relocated entire buildings, and destroyed livelihoods.

It is sobering.

But as hearts stop trembling, hands and feet start moving.  Neighbors come, checking to make sure you’re alright.  Friends & family bring food, themselves, and determination to help salvage whatever is left.  Town and city employees work round the clock to unplug drains and clear roads.  Businesses donate supplies, food, and transportation to help in the recovery.   People whom we often don’t take notice of but that we are surrounded by every day come sweeping in to help lift us up from our shock, becoming pillars of strength and solace when we most need to believe in a gentler and happier future.

Irene’s wake-up call reminds us that we are all intricately connected, dependent and reliant upon each other. In such moments of vulnerability, when so much is ripped away from us, we are left with the stark reality of how healthy (or unhealthy) our relationships are – with each other and with the earth around us.  And we’re given a chance to repair what we might have been neglecting.

Diggers' Mirth Vending Bicycle

Unsung Heroes

With the coming of Irene, I am reminded of how much our survival as a society is dependent upon the success of our farmers that practice organic and sustainable farming methods.

These farmers, our neighbors, humbly offer so much to our communities.  Stewards of the land, they quietly and persistently honor and maintain the earth, often rehabilitating that which has been laid to waste by industrial agriculture’s recklessness.  They work tirelessly, during ungodly hours of the day, planting, caring for and harvesting food for our consumption.  They do it for little pay, appreciation, or accolades, and each year that they survive brings another year of uncertain and temperamental circumstances.

Our farmers provide us sustenance.  They provide us our life energy.

In good times and bad, we gather around tables laden with healthful, beautiful food that they plucked from the ground for us.  Mindlessly chomping and chewing through our meals, gatherings and events, we often eat with thankless lips, as if the cornucopia spread before us miraculously appeared there, without any effort.  Our food exists due to the utter tenacity of the farmer who begins each morning breathing in the heady smell of the earth and ends each day with an exhausted aching in the bones.

Offering up Thanks & Support

Most of the farmers that we buy our food from lost their crops to Irene, which is especially tragic considering many of their spring crops were damaged by floods earlier this year. Our hearts go out to all of our Intervale Farmers.   We give special thanks to Diggers’ Mirth collective farmers for bringing their food directly to our neighborhood every week, last year via a vending bicycle (our favorite way, of course!) and this year via their veggie mobile.  Here’s a peek at Hilary Martin of Diggers’ Mirth visiting us on our street, the week before Irene hit Vermont:

I urge everyone to support your local farmers in any way you can. If you know the farmer that produced your food, thank them for it.  If you don’t know a farmer yet, find one and introduce yourself.  Then thank them.  Join a CSA.  If you have the ability to buy produce, meat, eggs or dairy from a local farmer, for the love of all things good, do so and pay whatever price they’re asking (and know that every penny is worth it).  And when you eat your next meal, take a moment to silently give thanks for those who provided the bounty at your table.

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Information For Vermonters who want to help local farmers

The following sites offer ways in which you can help farmers recover:

Transition Vermont: Support our Farmers

Intervale Center: Farmers’ Recovery Fund

Rural Vermont



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