Farmer Owner Spotlight - Bear Roots Farm

It’s a cool summer morning, the first week of August, as the sun rises. Farmers Karin Bellemare and Jon Wagner awake to chores, not animal in nature, but to the demands of tens of thousands of plants yearning for a little TLC in the demanding times of climate change.

Maybe they will tend to the peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants in one of their three 100 foot greenhouses (aka high tunnels); or perhaps cultivate the thousands of feet of planted rows which include carrots, onions, parsnips, beets, potatoes, kale, broccoli, and squash of all varieties. It seems never ending, and now that they have built the new high tunnels, growing has become a year round proposition.

This year Karin and Jon decided to expand their efforts towards growing perennial crops such as blueberries, strawberries, asparagus, and raspberries. The persistent rains of June helped the plants gain a strong foothold, and by all indications next year Karin, Jon and their many CSA members will get to reap the rewards. Berry growing in Vermont has now become a commonplace accompaniment to hundreds of vegetable growers in Vermont, a wise business decision in diversification to give the farmers insurance as the seasons become more finicky in Vermont.

Karin and Jon met in 2006 as students at Green Mountain College in Poultney, both students with a passion for agriculture and a love of playing soccer. Just in meeting them both, one can’t help but recognize their physical strength. And now their focus has shifted from the flat pitch of a soccer field to the lush green fields of plants teeming with produce. They purchased the old Watt farm of 87 acres in South Barre with the support of the Vermont Land Trust in 2013, hoping to start anew after leaving their established business in New York. It seemed a wonderful fit as they grew tired of the Eastern Long Island lifestyle and missed the Green Mountains.

They dreamed that the farm that was once a home to twenty head of milking cows for over five decades could provide them with a foundation necessary to grow the variety of vegetables necessary to ensure a successful CSA and farmers market. What they found was a soil extremely rich and balanced in composition, a perfect growing medium. As it has turned out, it is more than they had ever hoped for.

When asked what the biggest challenge the future holds, they responded
“Farming is always a gamble. You never know what the weather is going to do. Being able to predict the weather is the hardest thing to do. With every year we have learned to grow crops that can handle extreme fluctuations in weather. Even with more experience we are finding that it has becomes more difficult to grow in this unpredictable climate.”

Now in their second year, you can find Karin every Saturday from 9:00 - 1:00 at the Barre Farmer’s market on the grounds of the Barre Granite Museum, and Jon is marketing their fresh vegetables every Saturday at the Burlington Farmers market in City Hall Park from 9:00 - 2:00. Or you can call 760-0495 to join their CSA.



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