Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vermont Grazing Conference

This weekend, in the bitter 5 am cold with five heavy layers of clothes on, I traveled to the annual Vermont Grazing Conference.  409 farmers from all over New England, and Virginia, also made the trek.   There were two 8 hour classes the first day, one involved cutting up carcasses and was called Meat: From Farm to Processor to Plate.
The other 9 am- 5 pm class was called Building Your Value-Added Business.

The second day of the conference included 3 sessions with EIGHT classes per session to chose from!!
Here is the link to the entire brochure, in PFD format, for those of you who are interested in grass fed meats and fresh local foods:

The conference was sponsored by the Vermont Beef Producers Association (I am a member) 

and the Vermont Grass Farmers Association (I am a member).

UVM (University of Vermont) helped organize the entire conference, including ALL the local foods that were served at each and every meal!!!

There were 35 vendors selling light weight fencing, bull semen, magazines, water systems, solar fence chargers, seeds, greenhouses, farm insurance, equipment, wood ash, natural products, hundreds of books that we all lusted over and roll bars for tractors to help decrease the death rate for farmers.

I had a booth too.

The location was at a very fancy lake resort in central Vermont.
We had the use of every events room in the entire building, on every floor.
It was an incredible maze of hallways and banquet rooms.

The views were spectacular as many winter sports were going on ON the lake.
Ice fishing, hockey, skating, xc skiing, sledding and curling were being enjoyed everywhere on the beautiful frozen lake.

The dining facilities were breathtaking, with direct views of the mountains, the lake and the wildlife.

Free use of all the winter sports equipment temped many of us to try them out.

As a typical Virgo I arrived very early on the second day of the conference and was walking around exploring a little more when I ran into a man who was lost and looking for his classroom.
He kinda looked a little familiar even though he spoke with a strange accent.
I led him down the maze of tunnels, hallways and stairways to the auditorium  he was searching for.
As I read his name tag, the light went off in my head.  I asked a friend to snap a photo of us.

Here is his bio:

<<< JoeCloud is the co-owner, with Joel Salatin, and manager of True & Essential Meats in Harrisonburg, Virgina. As described by the San Francisco Chronicle, “Cloud was lured to this under appreciated link in the local food chain by Joel Salatin, the hyper articulate farmer made famous by UC Berkeley’s Michael Pollan and the film “Food, Inc.” Two years ago, Salatin persuaded Cloud, 52, a self-described foodie and dedicated carnivore, to plunge his retirement savings into the venture.”
Joe will share his mid-Atlantic perspective on the day-to-day operation of running a small abattoir in this age of heightened food safety and increasing demand for local food.  >>>

He was on a panel of slaughter house owners. They told about their unique setups, their employees and all the complications of federal laws and state inspections as well as how to set up dates for slaughter and unique options us farmers have available to us to guarantee a fresh, safe product for our customers.   The "cut up" sheet was the talk of the day.   The auditorium was packed and everyone in attendance was on the edge of their seats. The question and answer part went on for an hour and was just as interesting.  Employees from the Royal Butcher in Braintree Vermont were in the audience and it was really interesting hearing their suggestions, experiences and input.  It was nice to see how these employes respect their boss, love their jobs and know how important their skills are for the rest of us.  
Many younger localvores are becoming interested in learning how to slaughter and cut up different meats.  This winter there have been many "Farm to Plate" classes to learn how to raise, slaughter, cut up and cook various livestock and poultry.     There were also several new butcher's apprentices in the group.  It was very surprising.
We all believe that time will repeat itself and there will have to be a butcher shop in every town to meet the need for fresh, grass fed, humanely raised, healthy, nutrient rich, beef, pork, chicken, emu, bison, duck, lamb, goat, goose, etc etc!!!!
As it is now, the big box stores are selling meat from who-knows-where, with gases and life extenders to increase shelf life and hormones and additives to get the animal to fatten faster so it can be processed sooner. It ain't healthy OR fresh!        
If you want to be involved in this incredible food revolution: grow, grow grow!!     Grow vegetables, fruits, livestock, herbs, everything and anything healthy and nutritious.  Make a plan.  Get some training.  Apprentice with your local farmer/expert.        The future looks bright!


  1. This conference sounds like it was superb!! I wish we could have afforded it, and been able to find someone to do the animals in this cold.

    I am so glad you got to go, with your camera, and bring back the report.

  2. I bet that was a great conference! We have pigs butchered at a local processer. And hope to purchase a beef cow and have it processed. We have learned to process our own chickens. I wish there were programs available in our area to learn those skills. Me and my hubby would love to learn all we can on that. I could not agree more with the growing your own veggies!! So important.