Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Of Cows and Kids: Strolling in Vermont

Imagine musical accompaniment. (All photos by author.)
New York has its Thanksgiving Day Parade; Philadelphia, the Mummers; Pasadena, Calif., the Tournament of Roses; Pamplona, Spain, the Running of the Bulls; and ranking up there in originality, Brattleboro, Vt., hosts the Strolling of the Heifers.

Early in June for the last 15 years, coinciding with national dairy month, and this year also with national cheese day (June 4), the southern Vermont town (population 11,765) draws thousands of people to watch a hundred decked-out heifers parade up the historic Main Street. The event celebrates local farming and food.
Flower garlands as natural as the wearer.

Young people from various area 4-H clubs, and farmers handle their heifers with skill. An occasional moo is heard and the cows do the expected, leaving behind what leaves cows’ behinds to be promptly cleaned up by a surprisingly eager team. Following the heifers (and musical interludes of various marching bands and fiddlers on a truck bed), come the antique tractors—Ford, John Deer, International—and their equally antique drivers. Local organizations, mostly nonprofits, proudly parade, taking up the rear, in farm-related costumes or colorful t-shirts.
Strolling in color-coordinated style.
1950 John Deer (tractor).
Strolling of the Heifers, the nonprofit farm and food advocacy organization that sponsors the festival (which also includes a Slow Living Expo to promote people’s conscious connection to the food they eat), recently announced its 2016 Locavore Index ranking states’ level of commitment to locally sourced food. Not surprisingly, Vermont tops the list followed by Maine, Oregon, Montana, and New Hampshire. Created five years ago, the index takes into account food sales from farmers to the public, community-supported agriculture, and farm-to-school program participation (added this year to the criteria).

Vermont, the Green Mountain State, clearly wants to add the moniker of the Greenest State.
A farmer coaxes a reluctant alpaca.
Looking toward Main Street and beyond,
the hills of New Hampshire.