Rural Vermont’s mid-year grant report features farmer member Stephanie Walsh reflecting on her experiences participating in all three Small Farm Action Days last winter/spring, which Farm Aid helped to fund. Read the full profile below:
Rural Vermont, in Montpelier Vermont, is an organization dedicated to building communities that embrace regenerative agriculture. Their Farm Aid grant went to supporting three Small Farm Advocacy Days, which connected small-scale farmers with legislators at the Vermont State House, where they discussed pressing policy issues.
In 2013, Stephanie began building her own homestead and raw milk dairy. She bought a badly degraded northern Vermont farm and began bringing it back to life. Now she’s also an Organic Dairy Certification Specialist for NOFA-VT. She continues to struggle with the economics of being a small-scale farmer. In spite of the challenges of also being a new mom, Stephanie responded to Rural Vermont’s call for farmers to attend Small Farm Action Days because she knew that telling her story to legislators would be an important contribution to their understanding of the values that guide her farming practices.
Here are some of Stephanie’s reflections on her experience with Small Farm Action Days:
“Because I don’t have the financial resources to support Rural Vermont with much money, signing up to come to the State House and talk with legislators was a way that I could contribute my time and skills to support Rural Vermont’s work on behalf of small-scale farmers like me.”
“I was very discouraged by my interactions with legislators in the past. They didn’t know me and didn’t take me seriously. Coming to the State House this winter changed that dynamic in a big way. I wasn’t alone; Rural Vermont provided training and support; and helped me get time to testify before the Ag Committees and to meet with my legislators one-on-one.”
“By attending all three events, I built relationships and held my legislator accountable for things he said he would do in between my visits with him. I realized that my voice was one that the policymakers needed to hear. Most of them really don’t know much about farming, especially the kind of labor and knowledge-intensive practices we use like rotational grazing to build the health of our soils and pastures. The issues we are facing in Vermont around water quality are huge and small-scale regenerative farmers have a crucial role to play IF we can create regulations that treat them fairly. Networking with other young farmers is so valuable to me and helped me forge strong connections with other women raw milk dairy farmers – they are my tribe!”