Rutland Reader - November 26, 2014
Whether it is from behind their table of beautifully displayed vegetables at the farmers market or under a tent on Radical Roots Farm, Carol Tashie and Dennis Duhaime always have a smile to go with their offerings of green (or purple or yellow or orange) goodness — the gifts of the Earth they believe to be the literal roots of growth and revitalization in our community.
For the past three summers, while picking up my family’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from the farm on Creek Road, I have spent a few minutes of each Monday evening in the bubble of effervescence that is Carol Tashie. Knowing every one of her 80 CSA members by name, along with our children and probably our pets, too, Tashie greets us, asks how we are doing and makes sure we all know each other, while informing us what the heck we are meant to do with that vegetable that resembles Medusa (it’s called celeriac and is quite yummy in a stir-fry). When he’s not off in the field harvesting, Duhaime quietly says “hello” as he restocks the bins of produce.
“Neither of us had any significant farming experience before starting Radical Roots Farm,” says Tashie, who was previously a teacher at various schools throughout New England and the Northwest, including the University of New Hampshire for 15 years. Duhaime was in the lumber industry before working as produce manager at Rutland Food Co-op for two years.
“We were searching for a community we could call home,” Tashie explains. “We arrived in Rutland in January 2005, after attending SolarFest in the summer of 2004. After exploring the city and meeting some of its residents, we decided Rutland was the community for us. It is surrounded by beautiful and bountiful agricultural and recreational lands, and moving forward with vibrancy and innovation.”
In 2007, increasingly involved in one such innovation, the rapidly developing “locavore” movement, Tashie and Duhaime began growing their own food on a small parcel of land. With Duhaime taking the lead on the construction and Carol contributing her skills to funding and community support, the couple helped develop Rutland’s first winter farmers market, then in the space behind the Food Co-op. And when offered the opportunity to lease additional acres on the Ashcroft-Billings land on Creek Road, Tashie and Duhaime decided to dedicate their careers to organic farming. And so Radical Roots Farm was born.
Tashie says she and Duhaime are “learning and growing every day. Making mistakes, trying new things and recognizing our limitations are the realities of every farmer,” she says. And while over the past five years of farming they have been educated by the “generous and forgiving but also demanding and unpredictable” Mother Nature, they are very grateful to the experienced farmers “who offer friendship and support,” and to the educational opportunities provided by the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link.
It is with this support and their own hard work that Tashie and Duhaime have been able to achieve what they have. “We are very proud of the high-quality, nutritious and delicious vegetables Radical Roots Farm is able to produce on a relatively small parcel of land,” which they proudly share with their CSA members and hundreds of customers of the winter and summer farmers markets each week. Their produce is also featured on the menus of several restaurants, and, “perhaps most importantly,” Tashie adds, “it is served in the cafeterias of seven area schools.”
“We love our relationship with the schools. Knowing that the young people in our region are being provided with locally grown, farm-fresh food fills us with joy and satisfaction. What could be more important than healthy food to grow healthy children?
“The Rutland area is a rich and fertile environment for local food,” Tashie says. “The popularity and vibrancy of the farmers market demonstrates the community’s support, each and every week.”
Believing that this support is evidence of “the power of a diverse group of people working together to create a better world for themselves and their neighbors,” Tashie and Duhaime are committed to this community, including the NW section of the city in which they live. “It can be as simple as saying ‘hello’ to the people you meet on the street and as complex as organizing to solve a problem or develop a new project,” Tashie says.
“Community means caring about the health and well-being of the people and environment around you and respecting the interconnectedness of us all. And thanks to the creativity and passion of many of its residents, Rutland is on the cusp of revitalization, and we are proud to be a part of it. We feel extremely lucky to be a part of this welcoming and progressive community. The people in this region appreciate and value locally grown food, both from ‘what’s for dinner’ and ‘agriculture as economic development’ perspectives,” Tashie says.
“And we are proud to be part of the agricultural renaissance here.”
Joanna Tebbs Young is a writer and writing and creativity facilitator living in Rutland.