This article is by Lou Varricchio, editor of The Sun. It is republished here with permission.
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Financially stressed farmers of Addison and Rutland counties who happen to own scruffy, yet classic, barns will be able to spruce up their structures thanks to a new Vermont program.
The Vermont Barn Painting Project, which began last year in Caledonia County, is now expanding into other counties. Project organizers will be looking for local, historic barns to reinvigorate, too.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) and the Vermont Department of Labor, through the Vermont Barn Painting Project, are assisting Vermont barn owners in an all-out effort to preserve Vermont’s iconic barns.
The money behind the effort is the A. Pizzagalli Family Farm Fund.
Meanwhile, the barn-painting project also has spurred a new statewide farming award, the Vermont Fantastic Farmer Award.
The new award is designed to recognize hard-working dairymen and women; to acknowledge their commitment to sustainable agriculture and land-use diversity. The first Vermont Fantastic Farmer Award went to Cameron Clark, a Williston dairy owner and operator. She was chosen for her commitment to sustainable agriculture through her family’s eighth-generation farm.
Past is prologue
Vermont’s future in dairy production owes a lot to the past. And by preserving some of local ag’s past is one, albeit small, approach in giving the state a unique marketing advantage over big “factory farms” of the midwest.
When organic milk supplier Horizon Organic finally pulls out of Vermont next year, opting for the midwest’s lower dairy products and transportation costs, VAAFM’s focus will be to look at how to retain and expand organic dairy products locally.
Two dozen dairy farms in the state are being negatively affected by Horizon’s decision. But the news isn’t entirely gloomy for the dairy sector. Vermont still has 181 working organic dairy farms; they continue to produce and supply area outlets.
“This program is designed to help young Vermonters build skills and experience that will help them when they enter the job market. At the same time, participants are preserving these wonderful pieces of Vermont history, making this work experience even more meaningful and long-lasting,” said Vermont Department of Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington Oct. 11.
“This project helps connect Vermont’s future with its historic past, and the Department of Labor is proud to be a part of that effort… We are committed to keeping our land in the family and as working lands, in the most low-impact natural ways possible. I firmly believe organic production is the best way for us to do this and maintain for years to come while using our land’s resources to their potential, including grazing forage, maple production, and timber.”
Save our barns
One shining example of the Vermont Barn Painting Project’s efforts is the historic red barn at Tamarlane Farm.
When he first heard about it, farmer Eric Paris applied to the Vermont Barn Painting Project in 2020 as a way to save his Civil War-era barn and preserve it for the future.
Paris’ modest, iconic red barn is a traditional Vermont design with all its truly lasting visual qualities being a matter of proportions. Sidewalls, sashes, classic transom windows, along with post and beam construction, are a hallmark of Vermont’s traditional barns.
Thanks to the A. Pizzagalli Family Farm Fund, ReSOURCE YouthBuild, and the Vermont Community Foundation, Paris’ circa-1865 barn was painted red and renewed during the past summer. The project is being lauded by the Vermont State Legislature with Gov. Phil Scott giving a thumbs up, too.
The Barn Painting Project will continue next year and hopefully beyond thanks to the Pizzagalli family and the various partners involved.
“We are grateful for the support of this fund. It’s meaningful to our youth, farmers, and our rural economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts this week. “This generous program supports our working landscape and rewards farmers for their hard work. The Pizzagalli family also funded the High-Quality Milk Award winners announced earlier this year. These awards recognize the hard work of dairy farmers for producing high quality.”
How to apply
Vermont barn owners who have an interest in repainting should visit the Vermont Barn Painting Project can apply at https://agriculture.vermont.gov/document/vdia-milk-quality-award-criteria.
To nominate or apply for the new Vermont Fantastic Farmer Award, visit https://agriculture.vermont.gov/administration/fantastic-farmer-award.