The theme of the 17th Annual Strolling of the Heifers was “May the Farms be with You,” an agricultural take on the iconic Star Wars phrase, “May the force be with you.” Those in the stroll took the phrase to heart. There were strollers decked in full gleaming Stormtrooper garb and masks leading their calves and cows at the beginning of the parade. Others carried banners reading, “May the Farm be With You,” down the main streets of Brattleboro, VT on June 2.
Still others dressed more casually in shorts and T-shirts, letting the beauty of their Jersey or Holstein calves speak for them. Fifteen members of the Walpole, NH based Pinnacleview 4-H Club wore matching green shirts with their club’s logo as their marched with their calves. Half of the club’s members own their calves while the other half lease their calves from local farmers.
Behind the calves rolled floats related to dairy farming, including Cabot Cheese, with several bands playing music. Antique tractors made their claim to fame too, showing the endurable strength of tractor engines. Having endurable strength is the touchstone for farmers, 24 hours a day.
Founder and Executive Director of the Strolling of the Heifers Orly Munzing declared the 17th Annual Strolling of the Heifers to be the best yet. “People thought this was probably the best parade yet. People were very dressed up, very creative; it’s really getting better.”
The Stroll is a fundraiser for the Farm-to-Table Culinary Apprenticeship Program and Windham Grows, Brattleboro based programs that create jobs for unemployed people and help jumpstart farm and food related businesses and other small businesses. Munzing devotes her time between these programs and the Stroll.
She and 350 volunteers gear up starting in January to prepare for three days of festivities and programs that teach the public about local agriculture and the farms that feed them.
“It’s just such a privilege to do this. Just being able to salute farmers whether they are in Brattleboro or Massachusetts. It’s a huge privilege to work in their honor,” said Munzing.
In 2015, the Stroll organized their first Farm-to-Table Culinary Apprenticeship Program and placed 11 formerly underemployed or unemployed people in full time culinary or food related positions. That first group visited Grafton Village Cheese Company to learn about cheesemaking, Commonwealth Dairy to see yogurt making and Dummerston, VT’s Scott Farm and Bunker Farm to view farm production methods. Since its conception, 30 people have graduated from the program, achieving jobs in participating restaurants, institutional kitchens and food manufacturers. They have an 83 percent graduation rate and 100 percent graduate placement rate. The next 12-week program starts up in July. The program is free to those who meet income and low or non-employment status and who are drug free, including veterans, and are serious about a culinary career. For more information visit www.strollingoftheheifers.com/apprenticeship.
Part of the fun of the 17th Annual Strolling of the Heifers was a Great New England Bundt Cake contest. First place and a prize of 150 dollars, baking supplies and King Arthur Flour (the cake had to include at least half a cup of King Arthur Flour) was won by Katie O’Neill of Northfield, MA for her Kate’s Boozy Irish Soda Bundt with Apricot Glaze.
Once again, the importance of dairy farming was reflected in her recipe, which used a lot of butter and two cups of buttermilk. The recipe can be found online at www.strollingoftheheifers.com.
Other events included a two-day Slow Living Summit to aid businesses in their quest for sustainability and a Sunday Farm Tour where five farms opened their doors to the public. One was the 169-acre Bunker Farm where farmers Noah Hoskins, Helen O’Donnell, Mike Euphrat and Jen O’Donnell raise and sell pasture-fed meat, poultry, maple syrup, annuals and perennials. At the 571 acre Scott Farm, Zeke Goodband raises 125 varieties of heirloom apples and other varieties of fruit.
At Dummerston’s 150-acre Full Plate Farm, Laura Hecht and Matt Crowley grow vegetables, flowers, fruits and nuts on two acres to supply 80 CSA members, farmers markets and area restaurants. Over in West Brattleboro, Helen and Charles Robb Sr., Charles Robb Jr. and Karen Robb run the Hobb Family Farm that has been in the Hobb family for over a century. Formerly a dairy farm, they raise maple syrup and grass-fed beef.
The final farm on the tour where folks could visit a milking parlor and calf raising area was the Miller Farm in Vernon, VT, where Paul, Arthur and Peter Miller, Keith Franklin and their families have 320 registered Holsteins, providing milk to Stonyfield Yogurt Company. They also manage 600 acres, growing grass, alfalfa and feed.
For more information on the Strolling of the Heifers visit https://www.strollingoftheheifers.com.