• Food for thought
    November 20,2012

    It has been interesting to observe the ongoing debate over the pair of oxen, Bill and Lou, being retired at Green Mountain College as it has played out against the backdrop of one of the best harvests Vermont has seen in years.

    This state takes great pride in its farm-to-table lifestyle, as well as the localvore movements across Vermont.

    In fact, in recent months, there have been several signs that farm-to-table and buying and eating locally grown foods is gaining in popularity. Several communities — Rutland, Northfield and Montpelier — have put into place indoor farmers markets, each of which have been received well. Residents have praised the moves as not only a way to get Vermont products into the hands of fellow Vermonters, but also for providing a viable method for community building and congregation.

    In this fast-paced world of Twitter, downloadable music and movies, and recapturing the tentacles of our lives on Facebook, focusing on the gifts of our natural community should not be cast aside as meaningless or lacking merit.

    If anything. Bill and Lou’s story may have opened our eyes to focusing on our local foods.

    Kathy Stevens, of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, recently wrote on Huffington Post about the debate: “I never would have guessed that the fate of two old oxen on a Vermont college campus would inspire tens of thousands of people around the world to raise their voices. But it did. Bill and Lou, scheduled for slaughter after a lifetime of service to the college, were featured in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe and many other major media outlets, and inspired action and dialogue around the world. But now that Lou has been euthanized due to an injury and the college has decided to keep Bill, an even more urgent dialogue needs to happen. It is a dialogue about sustainability.”

    She goes on to say that the college, whose mission is to “prepare students for productive, caring and fulfilling lives by taking the environment as the unifying theme underlying its programs,” may have lived up to the very cause it also is trying to protect.

    Stevens disagreed with any plan to euthanize and make the animals into meat. But her defense, and the issue on the whole, made us more keenly aware of the other products we provide for our own sustainability in Vermont.

    “Plainly and simply, growing animals to feed humans — no matter how conscientiously — is not sustainable, and animal production appears to be a key piece of the Green Mountain experience. The controversy over Bill and Lou, in fact, began when a farm animal sanctuary offered lifetime care to the boys, but the college refused to sign them over, deciding instead to feed them to the students,” she wrote on Huffington Post. “It is my hope that Bill and Lou — two humble, beloved souls — become the teachers who jettison us to the next level, creating the conversation that helps us all make the next urgent paradigm shift: the shift to veganism.”

    While Bill and Lou may have converted a few omnivores to an all vegetarian diet, Stevens shows us that we should take pride in our local food — whether it is meat, cheese and dairy products, fruits and vegetables.

    Our farmers markets are bustling because of these movements that inspire buying local, eating local and being part of a community that believes the cycle of consumerism and consumption work in tandem, and create economies that make our towns, cities and state a better place to live.

    Our investment in farm-to-table shows our commitment to one another. That is the benefit of living in a rural state that overflows with natural gifts and delicacies.

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