Addison Independent
October 25, 2021

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MIDDLEBURY — Molly Leach Daycare in Middlebury has a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from Next Chapter Farm, which is located in Middlebury on Route 7 South. Each week when the CSA box arrives, the kids help to open it, explained farm owner Lara Dickson.

The daycare uses it as an opportunity to review colors, shapes and other basic skills while letting kids touch the produce and familiarize themselves with how it looks and feels. Depending on the item, the children may be involved in preparing it.

Senator Leahy Visits Next Chapter Farm for Farm to School Month“This week they’re going to get honey nuts. They’re also going to get Brussels sprouts, so we’ll see how that goes,” Dickson said during an Oct. 12 visit to the former Field Farm by an unusual VIP: U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy.

Leahy visited the farm to raise awareness of the link between local agriculture and nutrition during Farm to School month, celebrated each year in October. The federal Farm to School program was established in 2010 with legislation authored by Leahy as part of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. Leahy is a leading member and former chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

The six-term senator said he remains committed to providing healthy, local foods to children in Vermont and around the country. He crafted a federal Farm to School program based on Vermont’s example. As chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has been able to increase the program’s funding by $31 million since 2018. This year, he introduced the Farm to School Act of 2021, a bipartisan bill to strengthen the federal program.

When Dickson, a graphic designer who is relatively new to farming, moved to Vermont from Seattle 10 years ago she didn’t expect she’d be providing young children with boxes of vegetables and eggs. She settled in Burlington where she began doing graphic and web design for area businesses, including restaurants that were part of Farm to Table, serving locally grown foods.

She then began learning about the providers of the food.

“I fell in love with pigs,” Dickson said, laughing.

Her first farming venture was keeping pigs in Berlin. When she took over the Field Farm, she expanded her operations to include vegetables — which she had always grown for her own consumption — and eggs.

Next Chapter is a certified organic farm, which prompted a discussion with Leahy about the origins of the organic certification program. Leahy, who created the program, said the idea came to him during discussions with farmers, but getting it approved was a challenge because of opposition from major agribusinesses.

Maintaining the integrity of the program has also been a challenge, with Leahy working to close a loophole that has allowed large dairy producers to raise heifers conventionally then convert them to organic once they begin to produce milk. Leahy is proposing that transition be allowed only once, when a farm converts to organic.

In addition to her CSA, Dickson operates a farm stand at Next Chapter Farm. Her sister, Sara, and 13-year-old niece assist her on the farm.

Like many new farmers, Dickson has kept her day job, continuing to do graphic design.

“It was a pleasure to visit with Lara and see her farm, which is in a beautiful location,” Leahy said following the visit. “New farmers like Lara, committed to providing healthy food to her community, including children, are who inspire me to continue the fight in Washington for policies that support our local farms, not big agribusinesses.”

Senator Leahy Visits Next Chapter Farm for Farm to School Month


Photos by Steve James, Addison Independent