Sunday, February 3, 2013

Vermont Farm Show

I spent last week at the Vermont Farm Show where 50,000 people came through in 3 days, most of them farmers.  January is the month of agricultural workshops, conferences and Farm Shows. Its the best month to get a farmer off the farm and to an event since this is the slowest month of the year for most farms. This is the biggest event with 98% of the attendees being involved in an agricultural profession. A very attentive audience!

I commuted the 154 miles back and forth every day in some of the worst weather I have experienced in years: pouring rain, intense fog, heavy snow, ICE, slush, high winds, MUD, building fires and vehicle accidents.
Ice so bad schools were cancelled.
Power was out in one town and none of the traffic lights worked so there was a big logjam of trucks and cars trying to get through 9 lights.  Unfortunately one of the power trucks going to try to restore power to the grid had gone off the road 10 miles back, on the ice, as I was coming around a rotary.
Fog so thick that school buses were pulled over to the side of the road waiting for better visability.
Slush so messy that I went through TWO gallons of windshield wiper fluid.
Winds so bad that trees fell down all along my route home and it was an obstacle course all the way home in darkness.
Wendy's caught on fire one morning just before I drove by and I was stuck in traffic within 50 yards of the entrance gate at the Fairgrounds for the Farm Show.
After a day of intense rain the fairgrounds parking lots were knee deep in mud and some vehicles were stuck.  Mother Nature threw everything at me and I still made it home before 9 pm.

It was worth the commute so I could check on my flock, herd and dynamic dog every evening, plus sleep in my own comfortable bed.

There were 300 booths, exhibits and demos in the 2 big Expo buildings, plus workshops and various big banquets for the Dairy Association, FFA and other Ag organizations.

Here is my boss at our booth before the doors opened in the morning and the mobs come in.
Raffles were big items of interest and we have a garden bench, ear protectors and a Bed & Breakfast getaway to raffle off.  Most of the farm wives wanted that B & B getaway!

My devoted boss was interviewed by several radio stations about the Vermont AgrAbility Project of which we are national leaders in peer support.  Senators, State Reps and other agricultural dignitaries all made their way to our booth to discuss issues that concern us all.

There were also judging contests going on with the FFA and other veggie, fruit and forage contests too.

There was a big hay and silage contest that took up a big section of an isle.    1 entry per farm.

The sweet smell of summer wafted around me as I looked at every sample.

My neighbor won it.


New heavy duty calf hutches were on display.

These are much larger than they look.

The Vermont Poultry Association had several booths with turkeys, geese, roosters and these exotic hens.

They educated the public about what it takes to keep a flock safe and healthy.

The VPA sponsors several very popular swap meets during the year. A swap meet is where poultry hobbyists bring equipment, birds, chicks, fertile eggs for hatching, turkeys, quail, ducks, geese, rabbits and other small stock to sell, trade or barter.  You never know what you will find for sale. These swap meets are fun to attend,  to network and meet new fowl friends. They are BIG fun.   I went to a few last summer and came home with 3 of my most productive hens.  This year I will be attending to sell equipment that I don't use anymore and of course to buy more pullets and chicks.   Its addicting.
Hopefully there will be raffles at the swap meets to make them even more exciting!

To sign up for their yahoo group and get a glance of the dates for the next swaps, click here.

The Morgan Horse was well represented.

The original Morgan horse, Figure, was brought to Vermont by Justin Morgan.

When you think "Morgan" think Vermont.

The University Of Vermont has an entire farm dedicated to this marvelous hard working, versatile breed.

Here is a previous post about where Figure is buried.

This beautiful black Morgan mare was patted 49,000 times in 3 days. She was cool, calm and collected.

There were several football fields worth of huge Agricultural equipment of all kinds.

Farmers were asking questions, making deposits and taking bags of information home in preperation for the upcoming season.

Unfortunately there were no raffles on tractors. Drats.

There were also all kinds of free refreshments: water, milk and juices. I dehydrate quickly, so my boss was constantly making me drink,    I would survey the different isles as I made my way to the rest rooms.... and on one of my scouting adventures I found this:

A red and white 4 week old Red Holstein heifer.

It was fate.

In my mind I immediately named her Farm Show Fern.  An "F" name so I can start a new line of cows, since I have clearly exhausted all the "G" names for my G Cows.

For the next 3 days I stuffed the raffle box with the names and addresses of everyone I knew in my village so I could 40 triple my chances of getting a phone call.

When I returned home I had to inform (more like a confession really) all my village friends NOT to hang up if they got a phone call telling them they won a calf OR 10 straws of bull semen.

It was not a scam. It was real and they needed to call me if they got the winning message.

I pleaded with everyone to take delivery!

And for the next 3 days I said good morning to Fern every time I arrived and said goodnight to her every evening before I left for home.

In the evenings Fern would give me a look that confirmed that she knew she was coming to my place.  Soon.

Don't ya think ?

Look at that face. Do you see the smile ?

The IBA man was there giving away pens and raffling off teat dip.  Of course.

Nothing makes me happier than free milk, in 3 flavors. I visited this happy place several times per day.

10% off all hand tools.

A raffle for a fence charger. 
I pray I win this one since I purchased electric poultry netting last year but could not afford a charger yet.... so I was glad to enter my name in this.  And Mavis' name, and my ducks' names....

Some of the largest crowds of farmers were gathered around this object watching the video about robotic milkers and then witnessing how it works.

Right now there is one robotic milk machine in the state.   Three more will be ready to go into production soon.

Robotic milk machines allow cows to come and go into the milking parlor when ever they want to, on the cows own schedule.  The robot will sense her presence and milk her. 

No farmer needed.

Read more here.

There were many cows represented here, and I got photos of most of them, as you will see....

One of my favorite booths was sponsored by the Vermont Farm Health Task Force. They work hard to keep farmers healthy.
Since farmers rarely have health insurance and when they get sick or injured the chores don't get done correctly. At this booth they did FREE blood pressure screening, cholesterol level, glucose levels, body mass index, counseling services and a really nice massage to reduce stress levels.  Volunteer medical students and staff had a steady stream of people getting tested. I went twice during the week to see if I could reduce some of my numbers.

Lesson # 1-- Oatmeal for breakfast reduces blood glucose levels very nicely.

Lesson # 2 - Blood pressure has a tendency to be high at the Farm Show.  At least for my boss and I.
Do not know why...

They were raffling off a print from the famous cow artist Woody Jackson.
You should all know who Woody is. He has done all the cow art on Ben & Jerry's ice cream containers and T shirts for the last 40 years.

Another neat item the Farm Health Task Force had was this bike powered smoothie machine.

You have to peddle about a mile to make the smoothie.

I had one every morning for brunch.

  Lots of  great cow items, including tail paint and bag balm.
Bag balm was invented in my village at the local pharmacy in 1899 and is now sold in Lyndonville Vermont. Get yourself some to repair chapped lips and sore teats.
Great Bag Balm info here.

Vermont Emu Producers had the best booth.  Lots of  information about the health benefits of using emu products.

Most farmers suffer with arthritis and emu oil can relieve some of that discomfort.

 Soaps, shampoos, lip balm, lotions, PLUS burger, sausage and filets made for a very interesting exhibit.


Emu has the most iron of any meat or fish product on the planet. Most women are iron deficient, so Emu meat is the healthy choice.

If you see a product you need, want or desire, go to their website to order:

Not only were there 300 exhibits IN the building, there was also a parking lot FULL of additional equipment that could not fit in the building.

I like looking at manure spreaders and Kubotas.

 Here and there in the building were a few vintage vehicles that I admired.

When vehicles were built strong, heavy and tough.

 And spare tires were accessible....

Another interesting demo was the water exhibit that was reenacting how Hurricane Irene destroyed so many fields, farms, homes, businesses, roads, streams, dams and rivers.  I learned a lot.  None of it good.
But its helpful information.

 Farms that were far away from the flood plane and should of been safe, weren't.

Climate change with its more frequent, severe weather is going to continue to cause extreme damage.

Lesson # 1- Do not build or live near any stream or river culverts.

 Lesson # 2- Do not build or live near any bridges that go over rivers or streams.

There were some great deals at the Farm Show.  Some items were deeply discounted, including clothes, tractors and alpaca socks!  Since I spent most of my money on gas driving to and from, I had none for other items.  However, I did purchase a well needed pair of socks to protect my feet from the cold hard cement that I was walking on.

The Vermont Llama & Alpaca Association had a wonderful booth full of yarn, socks, sweaters and other warm stuff.

I met the wool providers of my socks.

Alpacas are calm, curious, gentle creatures and they make a soft humming noise when their farmer leaves to go to the restrooms.

 I will never look at my socks the same way ever again.

 Felix the llama replaced the alpacas. He was tall and handsome.

He also kept a close eye on his farmer.

This particular bovine was used to demonstrate how to milk a cow. Her teats were tugged 49,000,000 times in 3 days.

Here was one of the sweetest booths at the show: sugar makers equipment.  With sugaring just around the corner at the end of February, there was a brisk business of tubing, taps and boilers.  Vermont is the Maple Syrup capital of the USA, and we take it seriously.   There was free maple cotton candy, maple milk shakes and maple butter for the everyone.

As the morning headed for noon, the crowds got bigger.  The banquet halls were full of hungry farmers.
The booths giving free samples were full of hungry tasters.   I could of easily camped out at the Cabot cheese booth or the Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery booth and stuffed my happy face with all their delicious dairy foods, but I did not.   Mostly because there were people 4 deep trying all the different products.  Every time I headed to the restrooms I would look over on my way and see if there was any space to get a sample.   3 days, no cheese samples.  50,000 serious cheese eaters.

I was able to grab some Kingdom Creamery pumpkin ice cream from the booth by us for a little sugar burst to help me make it through the last hour.

My job, while at the Farm Show, was to educate farmers about the services we offered to keep them safe while they farmed.
One of the more important aspects was to educate farmers about the importance of having rollover protection (ROPS) bars put on their tractors to eliminate fatal accidents.

Most farmers just want to get the job done and do not think they will ever be involved in an accident if they are careful.
However many people drive the same tractor.  Fathers, sons, spouses, cousins, neighbors, daughters --they all use the same tractors.  They borrow them for a quick chore or a simple task.
Vermont ain't flat and bad things can happen quickly.

Sadly, Vermont had 5 tractor fatalities last year. Neither of the 5 had roll over protection on their tractors. 

Its a known fact that within 12 months of a fatal accident on a farm, it is out of business and up for sale. 

Every day, every hour I heard yet another story of someone being involved in a tractor rollover or in a "almost" rollover. One 76 year old farmer survived 2 rollovers. Another one was pinned under his tractor for 2 hours and has chronic lung issues.
Many farmers told me that the farm they currently own they bought from a family who lost a husband/son/brother in a tractor roll over.  They also know people who have died in a tractor accident.

When I wasn't hearing about tractor accidents I was being shown missing fingers and hearing stories of what they got caught in.

I wish I had brought a tape recorder because these stories are all factual, educational and compelling.
Farmers who survived horrible accidents are hyper vigilant now.

Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and New York, have a ROPS program where 70% of the cost of a ROPS is reimbursable.

That is a 30/70 split!!!

It is the cheapest life insurance policy you can buy for your entire family!


** If your state does not have a ROPS program and you have an older John Deere tractor, John Deere will order you a roll bar 


For Vermont ROPS info click here

For New Hampshire ROPS info click here

For New York ROPS Info click here

For Pennsylvania ROPS info click here

Rollover Facts:
  • Each year 4 out of every 100,000 American workers die on the job.
  • The fatality rate for farmers is 800% higher than all American workers.
  • The tractor is the leading cause of death on a farm.
  • The most frequent cause of tractor related deaths are side and rear overturns.
  • Farmers in the Northeast experience the highest rates of overturn death.
  • 80% of deaths caused by rollovers happen to experienced farmers.
  • 1 in 7 farmers involved in tractor overturns are permanently disabled.
  • 7 out of 10 farms will go out of business within a year of a tractor overturn fatality.
  • ROPS are 99% effective in preventing injury or death in the event of an overturn when used with a seatbelt.
  • ROPS remain 70% effective without the use of a seatbelt.

For incentive, I gave out a very interesting calender that shows a dozen ways to get killed on a tractor.

I love my job.

I also gave out tractor keychains that had the toll free phone number to call and order the appropiate roll bar for your tractor. (all makes, all models)

The tractor on the keychain had a ROPS on, of course.

After hearing these horrid stories I would look around at the equipment here at the show and wonder how many accidents they would each be responsible for. 

And then I would wonder why my blood pressure was off the charts.


 Parking and admission to the Farm Show was free, however a request was made to bring non perishables to help restock the Vermont Food Bank since it had run low over the past month due to extreme weather and economic conditions.

The people of Vermont stepped up to the plate and filled the tables with tons of food every day.

It was a great idea that will help many people in the community.

 Got a big event in your area ?  Try the same idea and raise food and awareness for your food pantry..

I lusted after this tractor all week. It was directly across from my booth and it was the perfect size for Mavis.

Also has a nice foldable roll bar so I can park it in the garage.

 Here is the price tag.  Please send all donations, care of Mavis, to the farm.   : )


 The Vermont Sheep Association was well represented.

The lamb napped for 3 days.

 The Hoards Dairyman booth was giving out my favorite poster on postcards. I grabbed a few dozen and will be mailing them to all my friends.  Soon.

Can you name the breeds?

I also got the 2013 dairy judging booklet and hope to have that figured out by the March deadline.

Any of you competing as well ?

 This lucky dog gained admission and got to see all the interesting exhibits and eat some free foods.

He probably got some cheese samples....

 Another happy, milk promoting cow.

This tractor also is Mavis size.   No price tag, and I did not ask.

This is the latest all terrain vehicle being promoted to every sugar maker in the state.
It can go anywhere in all kinds of weather and can haul tubing, taps, tools, snowshoes and has a special place to put your chainsaws.

Pretty nifty.

 The FFA booth had some nice raffle items and I liked this iron sculpture.

 The last hour before the Farm Show closed was the hardest. Our feet and tongues were swollen from overuse, we were hungry and we still had to break down the booth and haul all our stuff a good distance to the truck to pack it in.  I was anxious to drive home. There were high winds predicted and I knew I was going to be bounced all over the rural roads in the dark.   The good thing was I had bags of good  reading material that would keep me busy for many weeks and a wee bit of hope that my phone was going to ring and give me some good news.

I do hope you have enjoyed my Vermont Farm Show tour.

Please leave a comment and tell me your favorite part.

If you have a chance to go to one, dress in comfortable shoes and bring a BIG bag to collect all the free loot that is given out. Bring your return address labels so you can just stick them on all the raffle tickets. It makes it much faster and easier.


  1. I have my fingers crossed that farm Show Fern is soon home with you xxx

  2. wow this was really great! i loved how you talked about the cows...and thought about Mavis and her tractor needs. and superduper safety info! we dont have a tractor... but i look at them longingly.

    thanks for sharing!

  3. What I noticed: No RollBar link for Mass.

    I was at a Soil Seminar last week, but I bet your show was more exhausting, if not not more interesting. :))

  4. Just wondering if you'd gotten the phone call yet???I hope.
    This looks like a lot of fun. I have a grazing conference to go to tomorrow, but nothing half as exciting as your show. We just sit, listen and eat. :)

  5. Sounds like you had a fantastic time. I miss going to agricultural events and really need to get back into the pattern of going.

  6. Great post. Keeping my fingers crossed for you and Fern. I know how it is to fall in love with a girl with huge soft eyes and long eye lashes. Thanks for sharing!