BARTON – The aroma of burgers, coffee and farm animals filled the air on the Kinsey Road yesterday as auctioneer Reg Lussier auctioned off about 160 head of cattle at Northeast Kingdom Sales. Lussier also auctioned pigs and a couple of horses.
Jim Young, co-owner of Northeast Kingdom Sales, said the cattle were on consignment. Northeast Kingdom Sales used to have such auctions every month, but now holds them every other month. The price of cattle at auction depends on current milk prices. Young expected 60 to 70 farmers at Wednesday’s auction.
“We give away a free turkey to every buyer,” said Young. “We have a good herd and that helps.”
Farmers from as far away as Maine and Quebec attended Wednesday’s auction.
Fewer buyers are showing up than in the past, but those who do show up buy more cattle, said Reg Lussier.
Marvin Williams of Randolph Center brought five cattle to sell at the auction, two of his and three that belonged to other people. He said prices on heifers have dropped about 30 percent over the past several years. Williams is concerned that in the future there will be fewer family farms and more “factory type farms.”
“They may push out the family farmers,” said Williams. He doesn’t think it’s good to lose family farms. “I think they make a better community and atmosphere.”
Family farms usually treat their head of cattle as family pets, Williams said.
Ford Hubbard of East Burke, who has been attending auctions for over 10 years, is concerned that milk prices, production costs, equipment costs and the unavailability of good hired hands will be part of the the demise of the family farm. He also said the younger generation is not interested in farming.
Years ago, Vermont had 10,000 farms, but today there are less than 1,000. Hubard would like to see Vermont's congressmen give more support for the family farm.
“Twenty years from now this country might be hurting for milk and food,” said Hebard. “They better be taking a good look at it.”
A local farmer, who asked not to be identified, said she doesn’t understand how the family farm will remain in existence. Family farmers like the lifestyle of farming, she said. “We raised three sons and a boy who came to live with us. They all learned to work and they enjoyed it, but had to go off for employment.”
The Vermont landscape is changing and a lot of fields are growing into brush, she said.