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Root: Pulse Of Vt In Hyde Park

08/16/12 7:55AM By Tik Root
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(Host) Earlier this year, as part of a digital storytelling class, Middlebury College students Tik Root of Ripton, and Paul Rosenfeld of Saint Louis, decided to explore Vermont's Route 100 - stopping along the way to meet people and learn about life in contemporary Vermont.

It's a busy road, but it runs through long stretches of forest and farmland, giving Root and Rosenfeld an opportunity to take the agricultural pulse of life in Vermont.

It's a road where herds of dairy cows are still a common sight. Along one stretch, Root, says they had a chance to observe life on a dairy farm, and to consider some of the ways it's changing.

(Root) In Hyde Park, located 12 miles north of Stowe, we met dairy farmer Kirk Lanphear of Lanphear Farm as he supervised the afternoon milking.

(Lanphear) These guys will milk over 100 cows an hour in that thing; the computers will actually tell you how much each cow gives. It can actually tell you if she's sick. You guys can come in...

(Root) As any Vermonter who's encountered the smell of manure during planting season knows, dairy farms are a staple of the state's landscape, economy and history. But the sector has fallen on tough times and we found unexpectedly few active dairy farms during our travels. But Lanphear still runs the business his father started.

(Lanphear) We've been here our whole life, we started with nothing and now we have 500 cows... It's farming. I wouldn't want to do anything any different. We made a decision to go big in 1999, and I'd never look back.

(Root) Going big meant adding a new state of the art barn and milking parlor capable of producing nearly 30,000 pounds of milk per day. And not surprisingly, as the farm expanded, the Lanphear lifestyle changed. Hiring employees from outside the family for the first time was a major step.

(Lanphear) It's sad to say, but I don't work as hard as I used to when there was 100 cows because when there was 100 cows I had to milk the cows every day twice a day... didn't see the kids stuff at the school, you couldn't afford to pay someone to help. And now you surround yourself with good people and all of a sudden you're able to at least get away and get a vacation and that sort of thing.

(Root) Lanphear predicts that his children are likely to see even more change on the farm during their lifetimes.

(Lanphear) There's two boys and there's two girls and they all are involved here, and I think it gives them a more of a value in life. And they'll come up here instead of playing a video game... The boys will be here. I say that, they're still young - they're 13 and 11 - but they'll take a tractor and three hundred acres of haylage, they'll take two tractors and two mowers and head out with cell phones and a stereo going and a tractor cab with AC, and they'll say "dad, we'll be back when we're done..."

(Root) Lanphear's daughters on the other hand, appear to be on a path towards a different life.

(Lanphear) We are gonna make sure that our daughters are taken care of. They're gonna go to a good college. My daughters will always remember where home is. I mean, they'll feed calves and they're very country girls... But I think the opportunity for them is out there.

(Root) Although the Lanphear family is accepting of many of these changes, there is one thing that they hope remains the same.

(Lanphear) People want to come to VT because it's a nice place to live, but the only thing is, they aren't gonna own this farm.

(Root) With that attitude, and a bit of luck, the Lanphears are sure to be here for years to come.

Taking the pulse of Vermont along Route 100, I'm Tik Root.

(Host) Tomorrow, Root and Rosenfeld's travels in search of the pulse of Vermont concludes with a visit to Jamaica, where they encounter a member the state's diverse craft community.

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