By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — It took 93 years, but Addison County on Nov. 7 will get its first-ever turn hosting the Vermont farm Bureau Annual Meeting and Convention.
The two-day event will see the state’s farm community discuss the condition of Vermont agriculture and draft priorities to push during the upcoming legislative session. The 54 elected Farm Bureau delegates — including four from Addison County — will conduct their business at the Middlebury Inn.
Tim Buskey, administrator of Vermont Farm Bureau Corp., explained that Addison County had not previously hosted the organization’s annual meeting because there was no lodging/convention venue big enough to accommodate the crowd of 150 or more people the event has drawn in recent years.
But in a bittersweet development for the county, participation at this year’s annual meeting is anticipated to be around 125 people, making it a good fit for the Middlebury Inn, Buskey noted.
“This will be one of the smallest groups we’ve had; it’s simply a sign of the times,” Buskey said. “It has contracted a little bit.”
Indeed, this year’s annual meeting/convention was originally scheduled to by a three-day affair, beginning Thursday, Nov. 6. But Buskey said organizers were forced to cut out Thursday’s program when the major event set for that day — an agricultural business tour — failed to draw enough sign-ups.
Still, farm bureau officials are pleased to finally bring the convention to one of the state’s most active farming counties.
“It gives us an opportunity to see an area we haven’t seen,” Buskey said, noting last year’s gathering was held in Burlington and next year’s will be in Rutland.
“It’s nice to know that for then first time in 93 years … it’s going to be held in Addison County,” delegate Andrea Ochs of Orwell said. “Addison and Franklin counties are the two biggest farming communities in the state.”
The event will kick off on Friday, Nov. 7, with the annual meetings for the Vermont Farm Bureau Corp. and the two organizations under its umbrella: The Vermont Farm Bureau Service Co., through which farmers can buy products; and the Vermont Foundation for Agriculture, which promotes ag education in grades K-12 as well as through the 4-H and FFA programs.
All Vermont Farm Bureau officers are up for re-election, so delegates will have an opportunity to nominate and choose the organization’s top leaders.
Following the annual meetings, delegates, members and all others with an interest in farming will convene in a town-meeting style gathering titled “Voices, Volunteers and Vision,” to talk about the future of the Farm Bureau and other agricultural issues.
Friday evening will see participants gather for a reception/awards dinner, during which the “farm family of the year,” among others, will be lauded for their achievements. The organization has invited Gov. James Douglas to address the crowd.
On Saturday, the Farm Bureau’s 54 delegates will vote on the policies and issues the organization will promote at the state and federal level for 2009. Addison County’s four delegates are Jane Clifford of Starksboro, Addison County Farm Bureau President Bill Scott of Ferrisburgh, Ochs, and Ted Foster of Middlebury.
David Lane, deputy secretary of agriculture, is scheduled to speak to convention-goers during a Saturday luncheon.
The event wraps up at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Scott stressed that the convention is not only for delegates.
“I hope other people will drop in,” he said, noting the importance of agriculture to Addison County and the state as a whole.