I rarely watch a television set during a weekday, but last Tuesday I did, and the program was Will Mikell’s Across the Fence show on WCAX. The subject was a young farm couple, Jimmy and Sarah Ackermann, of Hardwick.
For a number of years Jimmy and Sarah, living in Cabot, yearned to own their own dairy farm. They finally found an elderly farmer in Hardwick who was willing to sell to them at a decent price. They set about to convert the traditional farm to organic, which requires a substantial multiyear investment to meet the organic qualifications.
Working dawn to dusk on the conversion and doubtless running up a significant debt burden, the Ackermanns qualified. For nine years they had a going organic farm, receiving premium prices for their milk. But then the handler who took their milk changed hands, and the new management told the Ackermanns that the pickup route would be reduced. This was a moment of crisis.
The Ackermanns struggled with the idea of abandoning organic, But they decided they owed it to themselves, and their bovine family, to find a way to make a go of it. Happily, Stonyfield agreed to market their organic milk and the crisis passed.
Last week the Ackermann farm was named Vermont Farm of the Year. That’s a very fitting tribute to their hard work and courage, and to the generations of Vermont farmers like them who built Vermont’s dairy industry.