Visions in Nature: Farm Stories
Professor John Elder
The 45 students enrolled in Professor John Elder’s “Farm Stories” class in Fall 2009 developed a portrait that celebrated the rich histories and accomplishments of farms in our region. In collaboration with the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) and the Vermont Folklife Center (VFC), the students selected eleven farms that represent local individuals and families who have worked with VLT to place conservation easements on all or part of their land. For these farm families, their conservation decision demonstrates their commitment to sustainability of agriculture and their optimism that they can play a part in the state’s farming future.
The students’ creative narratives were influenced by the interests of these farmers, as conveyed through personal and open-ended conversations with them, interviews, and days of assisting with farm chores. Their final products, which took the form of videos as well as still photos paired with audio, portrayed the realistic outlook of farmers, their current challenges, hopes about their ability to innovate, and their sheer resilience as they experience the highs and lows of farming in Vermont.
The students’ work was shared at a dinner with farm families as well as through an exhibit at the Vermont Folklife Center in downtown Middlebury that was on display through the month of December. We hope the final products resonated with the farmers who helped to shape them, and that they will also help enrich the ongoing public debate about the future of agriculture in Vermont.
Listen to a selection of stories in the below photo carousel, click on the individual farm links to explore the complete farm narratives.