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Looking At Spring From The Front Porch Of Elgin Spring Farm
Tuesday April 30, 2013
By Cookie Steponaitis
Signs of spring are everywhere including at Elgin Spring Farm. Sitting on the front porch with Earl and Raymonde Bessette with the late afternoon sun streaming through the window the conversation flows with decades of memories about spring on the farm. The pair has been married for sixty three years and the head of a family which includes seven children, fifteen grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. As a matter of chance and celebration, this day also welcomes the arrival of what Earl jokingly called, “the newest hired man,” new great-grandson Weston Edward weighing in at a solid 8 lbs. 9 ounces.
The melting snow is the valley’s most recognizable harbinger of spring and for farmers it is all about patterns in the weather and frost. Earl has seen most weather conditions over the years and has had his plants impacted by them as well. “I was out checking the grass roots just the other day,” shared Earl. “They never heaved. Soybeans can’t take frost, but corn can live on the fifth or sixth leaf stage and the plant will survive. The soil looks good but we will give it another week.”
Earl, with a focus on the soil and the springs he has seen come and go directed the conversation to the differences for farmers today not only in equipment but in the seeds which are genetically modified to produce more and be less susceptible to disease and weather. Both Bessettes remarked with sadness while glancing down Plank Road to the open fields about the fourteen farms that were in sight on that one short road when the pair came to the farm in 1950. “Today,” shared Earl. “There are only four farms left in New Haven and between Elgin Springs Farm and Vergennes today there are forty four homes.”
Soon green leaves will embellish the state and the fields of Vermont farms will have new crops of alfalfa, soy beans and corn peaking above the soil reaching toward the warming spring sun. Spring is a wonderful time in Addison County because it renews more than the crops. It is a time to visit with neighbors, celebrate family and engage in one of Vermont’s oldest traditions the planting of the crops. On Easter Sunday the Bessette family gathered at Earl and Raymonde’s home with forty eight individuals and four generations strong. Cell phones were left in a basket and conversation flowed. Plans were made, memories exchanged and another renewal as old as farming the land itself entered yet another spring season of celebrating family.
So, welcome spring and all it brings to your home, your land and corner of Addison County. And perchance if you get out to Plank Road for a bit you might run into Earl Bessette doing another of his favorite spring traditions, checking out his field, the animals and working on the newest edition of his oral history stories, Wandering the Corners of Elgin Spring Farm.
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