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On the Nightstand : River Valley edition : Tuesday, 29 September 2020 12:20 EST : a service of The Public Press
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On the Nightstand

     by Stephen Morris

The History of Shelburne Farms:
A Changing Landscape, an Evolving Vision

It's easy to be of two minds about Shelburne Farms. When it was founded in the 1880s, it was one of America's great agricultural estates. It was also a monument to the excesses of unfettered capitalism. When visiting the place today, with its cathedral-like barns and sweeping views of Lake Champlain, it's hard not to ask the question "How could one person own this?"

And the answer is that one person could not own a place like Shelburne Farms forever. Happily, for the rest of us, the subsequent generations of owners who could not afford to maintain the property have transformed the citadel of wealth into a non-profit that is a world-class leader in sustainability education. Moreover, it is open to the rest of us. It could have been "Lakeside Condos."

The transformation of Shelburne Farms is told in a new book, The History of Shelburne Farms: A Changing Landscape, an Evolving Vision, by Erica Donnis with a foreword by Vermont Life editor emeritus Tom Slayton, the book is jointly published by Shelburne Farms and the Vermont Historical Society.quiet zone

The estate was the vision of William Seward Webb and Lila Vanderbilt Webb, a doctor and a railroad magnate's daughter. While it clearly showcased their wealth, its higher purpose was to lead the way in improving agriculture. That part of the vision has been maintained by the Webb family descendants who hope to inspire, and evoke the promise of environmental wholeness.

The lavishly illustrated book chronicles the efforts of the Webb family to keep the farm afloat through boom times, wars, and financial crises. Today, it is a 1,400-acre working farm, National Historic Landmark, and educational institution whose mission is to cultivate a conservation ethic. More at shelburnefarms.org

Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth
A Path to Agriculture's Higher Consciousness

Eric Herm was raised on a cotton farm near Ackerly, Texas. He graduated from Abilene Christian University with a degree in broadcast journalism. After working in sports television broadcasting, he traveled extensively, eventually returnin to Texas to work the land that has been in his family for almost 100 years. Startled by the changes he saw in the land, he began to change practices on his own farm and to speak out against the ravages caused by commercial agriculture.

The resulting book, Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth (Dreamriver Press) examines commercial agriculture's strain on our natural resources, delicate ecosystems, and the farmer. As a fourth-generation farmer, author Herm deals with the harsh economic realities and complicated legislation facing farmers, as well as the undeniable health impact of GMO crops and excessive chemicals on all living creatures. provides ample resources of natural, healthy alternatives that will inspire the transformation of farmers from corporate-motivated producers back to the flesh and bone guardian angels of the Earth.

Stories & Tunes

This new novel, by Green Living editor Stephen Morris, America's most beloved writer, completes ...

(Editor's note: Waitaminute, waitaminute ... you can't review your own book, in your own publication and begin by proclaiming yourself "America's most beloved writer." What does this have to do with providing "practical information for friends of the environment?")

OK, you've made your point. I'm not "America's most beloved writer" and a novel, especially a madcap farce with pretensions of searing social commentary, can hardly be construed as "practical information," but I have written this book, and it is my publication, and I am not above abusing the power of the press.

But I will keep it short:

Stories & Tunes tells the story of Darwin Hunter, the Megabucks Czar, who decides to use the state lottery as a means of more equitably distributing the wealth. This modern day Robin Hood is surrounded by some of the most outrageous and colorful characters on the planet. Follow Darwin in his quest to succeed where democracy and capitalism have failed.

Ask for it at area bookstores, or order directly from The Public Press, 100 Gilead Brook Road, Randolph, VT 05060. 802.234.9101. $15 plus $4 shipping.

(Special offer for Green Living readers! Mention Green Living and receive Darwin's previous misadventures in Beyond Yonder and The King of Vermont at no extra charge.)

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River Valley editor: Stephen Morris
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