Even though more than 25 names were submitted for induction into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame, this year only a handful were selected for the prestigious honor.
The nominees include three Lifetime Achievement winners, an Emerging Leader and an Ag Innovator. This year’s nominees, along with the 2020 nominees, will be celebrated at noon Sept. 1 at a luncheon during the Champlain Valley Fair.
Over the past 19 years, 90 contributors to Vermont agriculture have been recognized with the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame honor.
Roberta MacDonald of Burlington. Anson Tebbetts, Vermont secretary of agriculture, food and markets, says, “Roberta MacDonald loves her farmers and wakes up every day trying to improve their lives.”
As the senior vice president of marketing and brand strategy at Cabot Creamery Cooperative and with more than 40 years of consumer product marketing experience, MacDonald has been an integral part of Cabot’s national success and award-winning products.
Her Vermont values have shown through in her commitments to lead Cabot to become a B-Corp company, which commits to serving the environment, employees and consumers through low-waste and energy-efficient channels from farm to shelf.
MacDonald’s underlying goal is to make a meaningful difference in the daily lives of Vermonters with other work in the Vermont Historical Society, the Vermont Cheese Council, the Vermont Ski Area Association, the University of Vermont and the state of Vermont.
Polly Whitcomb McEwing of Essex. Whitcomb has spent the past 50 years dedicated to her family’s dairy in Williston where she can do any task. Her contributions off the farm have helped many farmers. She was the first agricultural director for the Vermont Land Trust, where she worked with farmers to understand the program and easements they might be eligible for.
Darby Bradley, past president of the Vermont Land Trust, says, “The program was in its very early stages, and Polly gave us credibility with the farmers. She respected their point of view and advocated for the farmers within the VLT and the Housing Conservation Board. We would not have been nearly as successful without her.”
Whitcomb also co-founded the Dairy Center at the Champlain Valley Fair in the early 1960s, which is still one of the most popular attractions at the fair each year, putting a positive face on dairy while educating consumers.
Robert “Bob” Wellington of Andover, Mass. (deceased). Wellington was one of the most passionate supporters of the dairy industry throughout his 30-year career with Agri-Mark Dairy Cooperative and Cabot Creamery.
Wellington was an expert in Federal Milk Marketing Order and milk pricing systems, which made him a valuable resource to farmers, industry partners, ag industries and legislative offices — both state and federal.
He worked tirelessly to move the industry forward on issues such as Federal Milk Marketing Order reform, Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact and multiple farm bills. All his efforts worked to bring dollars back to dairy producers through component and milk class pricing, and through the farm bill’s Margin Protection Program (now Dairy Margin Coverage Program).
Bill Beaton of Agri Mark remembers Wellington for “his constant presence, honest personality and [his] friendly laugh earned him a deep respect, appreciation and love. Bob is missed dearly by all those who knew and loved him.”
Caleb Fisher, owner of Rusty Bird Farm in Walden. Fisher has worked hard in a short time to build a farm from scratch after graduating from Sterling College in 2007. Since then, he has embraced true organic farming principles to thoughtfully manage the soil while continuously staying up to date on new innovations and techniques.
Fisher works to connect with the community through local farmers markets and a CSA where he has grown into a much-loved vendor. His true spirit shines through with his eagerness to drop whatever he’s doing to help a neighbor in need. He is quickly becoming a pillar of the Walden community.
Amy Richardson of Hartland. Richardson is known throughout the state for her dedication and work as not only a dairy farmer, but also as a voice for farmers.
She is focused on sustainable practices at her family’s farm and the surrounding watersheds. This has led her to become a member of the board of directors of the Connecticut River Watershed Farmer’s Alliance, where she strives to support producer conservation efforts to maintain and improve water quality.
Richardson serves as Windsor-Orange County chairwoman of the Green Mountain Dairy Promotion Council, is a delegate to the New England Dairy Promotion Council, is the appointed alternate for Agri-Mark on the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council and has spent over 10 years as the district Farm-to-School coordinator. Additionally, she has become a strong voice in the Vermont Legislature on behalf of producers with her experience, knowledge and dedication to the environment.
Aside from Richardson’s local community work, she has more than 18,000 followers on Instagram, connecting with a broader audience across the U.S. and other countries. With those connections, she took a trip to the U.K. to deepen her understanding of different techniques, which she shared upon returning. The trip was so successful, another is planned when times become safer.