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Thriving on community

Agriculture.com Staff 07/07/2010 @ 9:09am

Some people can make you look at the world with new eyes. Without even trying, they seem to challenge your most basic assumptions. Vermonters David Zuckerman and his wife, Rachel Nevitt, are like that.

A member of the Progressive political party, Zuckerman has served four terms as a representative in Vermont's state legislature, a position he was first elected to a year after he graduated from college. Since then, he's started the 15-acre Full Moon Farm and a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project that has grown to 115 members in five years.

He's also a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation's Young Farmer and Rancher committee.

"I'm pretty intense about things," he says, smiling. So, it seems, is Nevitt. They were married in 2002.

She is a spinner, potter, and teacher who works with low- income and disabled children. Now she also finds time to plant garlic (shown above right), harvest potatoes, plant vegetables, and run their booth at the local farmer's market. In her spare time, she calls contra dances, which are a New England cousin to square dances.

Between the two of them, they put in 4,800 hours on the farm alone during the nine-month season.

Zuckerman grew up outside Boston in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was not raised on a farm, but his family always had especially large vegetable gardens compared with neighbors. Summers spent in the Shenandoah Valley near cattle and poultry farms cemented his love of the field.

By the time he went to college, he knew he was interested in environmental issues. He started out as a chemistry major with an environmental studies minor, then became interested in farming and politics.

As a student, Zuckerman spent three summers working at Golden Russett Farm, a CSA in Shoreham, Vermont.

CSAs are farms where members buy into the production at the start of the season, then receive a season's worth of produce divided into weekly shares.

On average, new CSAs last about five years. Those with strong business plans are likely to be longer lived. The burnout rate is high, largely because many farmers grow weary of the long days and physical labor involved.

At Golden Russett, he learned labor-intensive, organic farming practices. He got an idea of the challenges presented by such an operation and the hard work involved. But, he decided the challenges he faced starting his own CSA were worth the benefits.

Some people can make you look at the world with new eyes. Without even trying, they seem to challenge your most basic assumptions. Vermonters David Zuckerman and his wife, Rachel Nevitt, are like that.

Taking a gamble on growing consumer interest in organic foods, Zuckerman leased 8 acres from the Intervale Foundation in 1999. He pays about $130 per acre per year.

The farmers together produce about 7% of the fresh produce for Burlington, a city of 40,000 people.

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