Wednesday August 28, 2013 | 09:28 PM

Jack Lazor by Makenna Goodman.

During my last two trips to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, friends who knew I was writing a series of articles about the Local Grain Economy mentioned farmer Jack Lazor to me. Due to my intense travel schedule and other matters we did not meet up, so when I heard he was writing a book about growing grains in New England I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Jack and his wife, Anne, are the owners of Butterworks Farm in Westfield, Vermont, where they have been growing organic grains since the mid-1970s. They began growing grains for their herd of Jersey cows, whose milk goes into their line of cultured dairy products. Several years ago, the farm began selling whole wheat flour for human consumption as well.

In 2004, the Lazors co-founded the Northern Grain Grower's Association, an organization focused on all aspects of grain production in the region, including organic seed saving and variety improvement.

Earlier this month Chelsea Green Publishing released Jack Lazor’s tome The Organic Grain Grower: Small-Scale, Holistic Grain Production for the Home and Market Producer. It is the most comprehensive book today on growing grains on a small and ecological scale. Lazor shares his 30 plus years of growing and storing grains, honing in on everything from finding and choosing seeds to how to grind grains for livestock rations and processing for human consumption.

Jack Lazor's new book, published by Chelsea Green.

Health issues prevented me from being able to speak with Jack Lazor (I am told he is better now), so I reached out to mutual associates for insight into this man described to me as a gentle giant in Northern New England’s organic farming world.

Stuart Soboleski is a young farmer currently working at Bonnieview Farm in Craftsbury, Vermont and a former farm manager at Sterling College. He has known the Lazors personally for about five years.

Jack and Anne Lazor in Stuart’s words:

They have so many followers - yet they took the time to embrace each one of us (or at least I like to think so!). Even when I showed up unannounced, they have always made the time to listen, and encourage me in my passions - no matter how crazy or farfetched they are.

Moreover, I am deaf and it takes a whole lot more energy and effort to communicate with me, and Jack and Anne have always taken the time to speak slowly, clearly, and to write back and forth.

A friend of mine, Sylvia Davatz, a seed saver who lives in Hartland, once said that Jack's heart is the size of the Northeast Kingdom. I am completely convinced that this distills his essence - I believe it is Jack and Anne's warm and generous hearts that have made them so successful and very loved by the community. From my experience, he has never been pessimistic nor said that "you can't do this or that". They have definitely helped me set my dreams for the unreachable star.

Certainly, Jack's selflessness is making the world a better place, one young farmer at a time. I aspire to take up what he has given us and continue to pass it forward. There is much hope for the future especially if we support each other in community and conviviality over competition.

I just acquired an antique John Deere grain binder that used to belong to him (Jack) in his early days of grain growing. I had a great time harvesting oats yesterday with a few friends and the machine worked beautifully. I feel so humbled to carry on a little piece of his past and perhaps to build on his work. Two of the phrases from him that I have really taken to my heart are; "Oh well" and "Why not?". Farming is such a fickle line of living, it helps to have a good attitude!

 

Photo of Stuart Soboleski on his new (very old) John Deere grain binder. (provided by Soboleski)

For more on Jack Lazor I encourage you to check out this post by Enid Wonnacott, NOFA-VT’s Executive Director. 

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About the Author

Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog, deliciousmusings.com.

When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.

In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.

Sharon can be contacted at kitchens.sharon@gmail.com or on Twitter @deliciousmusing.

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