May 21st, 2019

A Conversation with Vermont Farm Show Manager, Jackie Folsom

By Katie Moritz

What are some highlights?

Tuesday begins with all the Christmas trees coming in for judging which makes the entryway smell delicious! And the Beekeepers meeting has grown considerably over the years, as more folks with backyards get involved in raising bees. Wednesday is always a lot of fun, as the FFA students from all over Vermont attend to compete in various contests, including judging milk and maple syrup. That’s also the longest day for my exhibitors, as the Consumer Night, hosted by the Agency of AGriculture, begins at 4 and ends at 7 – capped off by the Capital Cookoff, an Iron Chef competition pitting teams from the Agency, and the Senate and House Agriculture Committees. Thursday begins with a Dairy Situation Outlook Discussion hosted by Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Diane Bothfeld followed by the Dairy Banquet, where milk quality awards and the Finley Award are announced. The Vermont Beef Industry Association also hosts its annual meeting that day.

What is the Farm 2+2 program?

This program is a collaboration between Vermont Technical College and UVM College of Agriculture and the Vermont Legislature. Tax dollars help pay for tuition for two years at VTC if you are in a dairy program, followed by tuition and housing at UVM for two years (with one semester at Miner Institute at Chazy). This is a competitive program and every year students must apply for a spot. Past graduates include folks who work in the feed and grain industry and banking as well as on farm dairy programs. Last year, our vendors donated $5,000 towards a scholarship and the Vermont Farm Show Board of Directors has committed to $40,000 towards one full scholarship to the program, in the hopes that the agriculture community will step up and help fund this going forward.

Why is this show important to the community and to the state of Vermont?

The Vermont Farm Show offers the opportunity for agriculturists to learn the latest technology, check in with USDA programs as well as State programs and attend organizational annual meetings that offer educational components within their fields. It also showcases job opportunities for young people looking at a career in agriculture and in general promotes a positive and energetic image of our industry. It also offers consumers and others who are just curious about agriculture to visit with our professionals and ask questions and learn who we are and why we are important to the State of Vermont.

What do you think is the most interesting historical fact about the founding of the Vermont Farm Show?

The Farm Show began as a strong collaboration between the leading associations of the time and included not only dairy and maple but turkeys, potatoes and baby chicks! The most interesting thing I’ve found looking through all the old brochures is that the Vermont Dairymens’ Association, which is now Vermont Dairy Industry Association, held segregated meetings for the “farmers” and their wives – the women had their own booth space and speakers.

How has the show changed and evolved over the years?

I think the biggest change came with the moves; after the show traveled from the Memorial Auditorium in Burlington to Barre Civic Auditorium, more exhibitors came on board and live animals were exhibited by the Breeds Association. I remember staffing the Vermont Guernsey Breeders Booth in the ice area – BRRR! – and looking at the llamas in the basement of the auditorium. Moving to Essex Junction allowed all the agricultural organization meetings to occur in the same building (in Barre, they were held in churches and the Canadian Club) as well as greatly expand the equipment displays, both inside and out. We were also able to expand our exhibitors’ offerings by quite a bit!

How & why are you involved? What does it mean to you?

My husband and I moved to Vermont in 1985, and in 1986 we attended the Farm Show in Barre and watched on TV monitors as the shuttle Challenger exploded in the sky. The outpouring of emotion from those folks in the ice arena as the explosion played over and over made me realize that this was a community I wanted to be a part of. I worked in the Cabot Creamery Booth for several years, as well as milk promotion – for several years, we made a huge ice cream sundae in a sugaring pan and handed out samples during what passed as Consumer Night. Then I got involved in agritourism and hosted the VT Farms Booth in the auditorium hallway – the highlight of our week was when Governor Douglas used to come for the Dairy Banquet and ask us to watch his coat. I also worked in the Vermont Farm Bureau booth and the Nationwide booth and somewhere along the line was asked to be the Farm Show board member for the exhibitors in the aud. When we moved the Show to Essex Junction, the manager – Jon Turmel – announced he was leaving the next year, and they asked me to take a shot at it. This is my 6th year! I really enjoy the vendors – we’ve gotten to know each other and how we work, and it’s just a joy to see them year after year.

Is there anything  you would like to add?

Yes, I have a great team behind me that makes my job a lot easier! Many thanks to Glenn Rogers and Dave Adams, my Floor Managers, as well as Nan Howe who handles the website and our newest member, Steve Mease who is doing Facebook and Twitter. And also, many thanks to so many exhibitors who have returned year after year to support our show and make it grow!!

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