Vermont’s Open Farm Week provides activities and learning opportunities

  • Misha Johnson, right, watches as Taylor Katz and their son Linden Honeymeadow, 1, walk down a row of basil to pick some as an addition to their dinner salad at Free Verse Farm in Chelsea, Vt., Friday, August 2, 2019. The farm will host two events during Vermont Open Farm week from August 9-15. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

  • Misha Johnson looks over a tray of calendula drying at Free Verse Farm in Chelsea, Vt., Friday, August 2, 2019. The farm will host a tour for Vermont Open Farm Week on August 14, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Misha Johnson picks a handful of coreopsis, on Friday, August 2, 2019, one of the flowers to be used during a natural dye workshop to be held at Free Verse Farm in Chelsea, Vt., on August 10, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Taylor Katz, right, calls for her son Linden Honeymeadow, 1, to join her and her husband, Misha Johnson, while picking lettuce for their dinner at Free Verse Farm, in Chelsea, Vt., Friday, August 2, 2019. The couple will host two events on the farm during Vermont Open Farm Week between August 9 and 15. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News Photographs — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/6/2019 10:00:19 PM
Modified: 8/6/2019 10:00:13 PM

Many people spend time contemplating the impact of what they put in their bodies. Fewer think as carefully about what they put on their bodies. But visitors to Free Verse Farm in Chelsea will do just that on Saturday, as they dye fabrics using colors from flowers, roots and leaves harvested on the farm. The Natural Dye Workshop is one of several events taking place around the region as part of Vermont Open Farm Week, which runs Aug. 9 through 15 and is a collaboration designed to showcase the state’s agricultural community in both traditional and innovative ways.

Working over an open fire, workshop participants will dye items to take home while learning about the process, from harvesting and processing the plants to preparing fabric for pigment to applying colors.

“It’s an opportunity to get down and understand what it takes to dye the clothes that you wear,” said Misha Johnson, co-owner of Free Verse Farm, which is offering the class through a partnership with Susannah Taylor, who grew up in Norwich and now owns Earthen Warrior clothing company in New York City.

The class fits with the farm’s nature-meets-novelty aesthetic.

“We just love being creative and trying out new things to grow on our farm,” said Johnson, who runs the herb farm and apothecary with his wife, Taylor Katz.

Johnson also thinks the time is right for an event that highlights naturally made clothing.

“People are moving beyond the local food movement and thinking about the supply chains for other items. … It’s all part of that same philosophy of understanding where things come from,” he said.

That philosophy also drives Open Farm Week, an event organized by Dig In Vermont, a collective of food and farm nonprofit organizations. In its fifth year, Open Farm Week gives the public a chance to see what’s going on at local farms while enjoying activities ranging from corn mazes to concerts to food-making workshops. Some of the events are free, while others require a registration fee.

In addition to the dye workshop, scheduled for Saturday from 2:30 to 7 p.m. ($105 per person; register at, Free Verse Farm will offer a farm tour and tea tasting on Wednesday, Aug. 14, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. ($5 suggested donation), with homemade Mexican arepas for sale from the Moon & Stars Food Cart.

At Earthwise Farm and Forest in Bethel, visitors can complete a garden labyrinth walk and pick their own flower bouquets on Sunday, starting at 9:30 a.m.

Lisa McCrory, who owns the farm with her husband, Carl Russell, wants to share with others the power of the ancient labyrinth, a spiral path designed for walking meditation. “I always build one, wherever I land,” she said. “Life is never a straight line. As you walk it, you’re able to kind of unravel and let go of burdens. At the center, you can stay there and recharge.”

After they’ve walked the labyrinth, visitors can select and snip zinnias, cosmos, leafy fillers and other floral varieties to make their own bouquets. “I thought that would be a neat thing to try,” McCrory said. “There will be quite a selection when people come.”

At 1 p.m. the same day, visitors can take part in a tour of the farm, a diversified, off-the-grid operation, as well as enjoying farm fresh snacks and learning about the couple’s experiences creating and maintaining a homestead farm.

McCrory and Russell, who offer consulting services, classes and workshops throughout the year, get a lot of inquiries about how to get started with homestead farming, McCrory said. The tour is designed for both the merely curious and those who want to follow in their footsteps, she said.

The labyrinth walk and pick-your-own bouquet activity is $20 per person. The farm tour and tasting is $15 per person ($60 per group of up to 6 people). To register for either event, call 802-234-5524 or email

Along with sensory experiences and learning opportunities, Open Farm Week will offer various forms of inspiration, including a tour of the Willing Hands Garden at Cedar Circle Farm in Thetford, a 2-acre permanent garden that supplies food to local food pantries, on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 6 p.m..

“We put a lot of time and energy into the Willing Hands Garden,” said Eric Tadlock, executive director of Cedar Circle Farm, which for the past 20 years has been working with Willing Hands, a Norwich-based nonprofit organization that distributes donated produce to human service organizations around the region.

With the help of Willing Hands volunteers, Cedar Circle Farm donated about 40,000 pounds of food from the Willing Hands Garden last year and anticipates donating even more this year, Tadlock said. To keep the garden operating efficiently, the farm recently has transitioned to permanent bed systems that allow them to avoid tilling and keep the soil in a more natural state, Tadlock said.

“We essentially shape the bed, and then the bed gets covered with a type of landscape material that acts as mulch,” he said. “You’re leaving the soil to re-stratify and build life back in it. … We think that’s important, not only to preserve the quality of the soil but also to help us grow a more nutrient dense food.”

Other Open Farm Week events taking place in the Upper Valley include a pancake supper at Silloway Maple Sugarhouse in Randolph on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. ($5/free for children under 5) and Full Moon Farmer Yoga at Crossmolina Farm in Corinth on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 8:30 p.m (free).

For a full listing of Vermont Open Farm Week events, visit and click on learn more under Open Farm Week.

Sarah Earle can be reached at or 603-727-3268.

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