I’m Laura Hardie – the new communications guru for all things dairy and farmer related in Vermont. What does that mean? Mainly, I’ll be working with farmers to get the good word out about all the great things they do. Although I’m a newbie on the team at the New England Dairy & Food Council, I come to the table with a deep appreciation for dairy & farming.
Here’s a little about me; mixed with some dairy trivia of course, and my recommendation for one of the best events in Vermont.
I’m a 7th generation Vermonter; my ancestors, the Stebbins family, came to Sheldon, Vermont in 1805 and were flax producers. You might be surprised to know that Vermont was the countries’ “bread basket” at this time and a major producer of grains like wheat, barley and flax. Production declined over time because of competition from other states as well as pests and disease. This led Vermont farmers to choose sheep and dairy cow farming (cue applause for dairy). Today, my aunts, uncles and cousins operate several dairy farms throughout Sheldon and Enosburg, Vermont.
My parents and brother run Meadowbrook Acres Dairy Farm in Milton, Vermont, which was established in 1958. They milk 200 Holstein cows. They also operate a maple syrup business which conveniently supports my maple syrup addiction. It’s a well-known fact that real Vermonters only drink pure maple syrup made from our sugar maple trees and that Maple Creemees are one of our favorite foods (aka soft-serve ice cream). If Vermont had an official word, it would be Creemee. They’re a delicious combination of dairy and maple. Every year, I get my maple fix at the Maple Festival in St. Albans, Vermont – one of my favorite events! In 2016, they will celebrate their 50 year anniversary.
I have a B.A in Broadcast Journalism and started my career as a local news producer for the NBC affiliate in Boston, MA. One of my favorite segments that I worked on was a cooking show. Each week, I would go with a reporter to a restaurant or home of a local chef and make a recipe with the chef to share with viewers. I got to meet a lot of talented chefs and learned to make a lot of yummy food!
A summertime hobby of mine is gardening and then canning or freezing the veggies I grow. Canning was something my mother taught me, and I continue to enjoy. To be able to preserve in time the yields of the summer sunshine and enjoy healthy veggies in the depths of winter is a treat. The soil on my land is rich with nutrients from the nearby Winooski river. Every year, I’m amazed and appreciative of the crops that grow on the land. One of my most interesting discoveries is that you can preserve herbs and enjoy them all year by simply chopping them up, tossing them in a canning jar with a little salt and refrigerating.
Like many Vermonters, I enjoy an active lifestyle and I love snowboarding. Sugarbush, Smugglers Notch and Jay Peak are my favorite mountains to ride. Hiking is also on the top of my list of things to do on a sunny day. One of my favorite hikes is in my backyard; to a view of Camel’s Hump that overlooks my home in Waterbury, Vermont.
As I begin my work with the dairy industry, I’ll be sharing with you stories of what farming is like today in Vermont. One of the things I was amazed to recently learn is that Vermont farmers produce 63% of the milk that comes from New England! If you love facts like this, you can check out the full Milk Matters report for even more data about farming in Vermont.
From caring for the land to providing a safe and healthy food supply, to being a good neighbor – farmers are doing really great things for our community. I’m proud that Vermont dairy farmers are a big part of where I come from and where I’m headed.