The Heifers Are Strolling in Brattleboro, Vermont
Spain has the running of the bulls. Brattleboro, Vermont has its iconic Strolling of the Heifers.
On Saturday morning, pre-parade activities include an appearance by the Dairy Godmother and the Dairy Princess. (Wear your favorite dairy-themed costume, and the Dairy Godmother may tap you to walk in the parade.)
A Slow Living Summit took place earlier in the week, coinciding with the start of National Dairy Month. The summit featured Bill McKibben and Majora Carter. Participants joined sustainability experts to learn how to build healthy, thriving economies while encouraging a new generation of activists. All plenary sessions were open to the public, including talks by Bill McKibben, author, activist, and founder of 350.org, and Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx and host of public radio’s “The Promised Land.”
Ten years ago, Orly Munzing started Strolling of the Heifers with the intent to educate the public — especially children — about sustainable local agriculture. The inaugural event hosted 10,000 attendees — an impressive beginning.
The three-day festival now attracts more than 50,000 visitors from across the country.Munzing, who serves as Executive Director, says, “The goal is to connect people to the food they eat”— and to benefit local farmers.
Events for the Family
The 2011 Strolling of the Heifers celebration runs June 3–5. Attendees are invited to enjoy all events for free.Friday evening’s activities include the Ultimate New England Sandwich Competition. Whoever makes the best sandwich will win a trip to Australia for the international competition.While you pick out your favorite place along the parade route, you’ll be treated to a variety of entertainers, including—
- Brattleboro Buzzards Brass Band (formerly the New Orleans Brass Band)
- Asian Cultural Center of Vermont – Dragon
- Happy Dan the Music Man
- Mourning Dove – music
- Lucky Woodlock – music
And don’t forget the food!
The Big Organic Breakfast Bar, hosted by Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, will be serving from 7 a.m. through 2 p.m. This community breakfast will feature all-organic foods, including:
- Pete and Gerry’s Organic eggs
- Vermont Bread Company organic English muffins
- Applegate Farms organic bacon
- Neighborly Farms Organic Cheese
- Dean’s Beans organic coffee
- Stonyfield Farm organic milk
Proceeds from the breakfast will go to the Strolling of the Heifers fund.
For many people, the highlight of the weekend will be the Strolling of the Heifers Parade, which begins promptly at 10 a.m. Saturday. More than 100 heifers and other animals, farmers, future farmers, tractors, bands, performers, and clowns will parade down historic Main Street.
The entertainers aren’t limited to those booked by the event, however. You can expect all manner of street performers, including jugglers, stilt-walkers, human statues, acrobats, and more. This lively event will make memories for the entire family.
Live Green Expo
Care to sample local foods from around the region? The Live Green Expo, which follows the parade, features organic foods grown in the region, which Munzing calls, “Amazing!”
More entertainment is in store, with youth performers, the Miss VerMOOnt heifer judging, Celebrity Milking Contest, and an attempt at a Guinness World Record with the creation of a “world-record-sized maple-yogurt smoothie.” Stay for an evening of contra dancing or enjoy a progressive performance festival each evening from June 2 through June 4.
Sunday’s events will include a Royal Farmer’s feast, an art festival, and the inaugural Tour de Heifer, three bicycle rides that range in length from 6 to 60 miles. Participants will ride from farm to farm, enjoying the gorgeous Vermont scenery while raising funds for Strolling of the Heifers and their favorite charity.
Source of Inspiration
The idea to launch an event that features local food came a decade ago from Munzing’s neighbor, a farmer.
“I live next to an orchard with amazing views,” Munzing explains. “The farmer does all the work, and we just get to enjoy the food.”
Her neighbor told Munzing that a good way to give back would be to educate people about local farming—by capturing their attention, not just talking to them. The comment inspired Munzing to begin Strolling of the Heifers, which she believes has helped in the spread of the local foods movement.
Microloans for Farmers
Donations to the Strolling of the Heifers Farm & Food Giving Fund will benefit small farmers in New England. The fund is described on the group’s website as “a new program of direct grants to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in farm and food enterprises.” This effort helps the region’s farmers obtain credit for farm improvement projects through microloans.
“It’s easier for a farmer in India to borrow money than it is for us,” says Munzing. The program made its first loan in 2009.
The area has a number of small, local, niche farms, says Munzing, though they are declining in number. “There used to be a lot of dairy farming, but it’s all moving west.”
Munzing encourages consumers: “Enjoy local farms, wherever you live.”
For More Information
See the 2011 schedule.
Website: Strolling of the Heifers
Twitter: Strolling of the Heifers
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)