Writing contest celebrates farming life

MONKTON — Students at Monkton Central School recently got a special treat: Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, an author from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, came by to do writing workshops with the students and judge the William C. Shattuck Farming in Monkton writing contest.
Contest founders Eugenie Doyle and Sam Burr run Last Resort Farm in Monkton on land that they purchased from Bill Shattuck. His family had owned the land for 150 years before he sold it, and after his death, Doyle said she and her husband wanted to find a way to memorialize him.
“We have always felt such a debt of gratitude to him and his family,” said Doyle.
The idea for a writing contest stemmed from a desire to get children thinking about the rural landscape around them at an early age. Doyle, a writer herself, said the effort is a different take on the farm-to-school movement that seeks to bring agriculture and local foods into educational settings.
“We kick off the contest by talking about what is available to eat that comes from Monkton,” said Doyle. “The kids are very into food, like most human beings.”
Doyle said that one of the joys of the contest is seeing the students engage with the topic, often in ways that they don’t expect. In past years, students have sat in on panels of local farmers discussing their work, researched and found the families who originally farmed the land they lived on, gotten their writing published in “Local Banquet” magazine, and had contest submissions featured in a mixed-media visual and writing project at Frog Hollow Gallery in Middlebury.
“I see it being one more motivation, one more opportunity for them to use their creativity in a little bit of a guided way,” said Doyle. “Some of the kids have had their interest kindled in writing.”
And the contest, which started out with about a dozen sixth-graders submitting their work, has grown. Now third- through sixth-graders can participate, and the contest consistently gets close to 50 entries. This year was the first that the entries were judged by a visiting expert, who seemed the natural choice to help evaluate the submissions.
“We’ve always had local farmers and writers,” said Doyle. “But Natalie’s a friend of mine, she grew up on a farm, and she writes a lot about family stories.”
So Kinsey-Warnock picked out the top six pieces — two first prizes, two seconds and two thirds — and at the end of the day, all of the contest participants received a copy of one of her books. (See below for the first place prize winners)
The winners also receive small cash prizes — but Doyle said that all of the students, regardless of the prizes, also get a better understanding of the landscape around them.
“We wanted to inspire kids to look around and see what’s here before it’s gone,” said Doyle.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].
If I Was a Farmer in Monkton
If I was a farmer in Monkton, I could grow a lot of different things. If I was a farmer, I wouldn’t have to drive to work and I could spend my whole day on my farm. Monkton doesn’t have a lot of unusual farms so my farm would bring something new to the town. I would either be a Christmas tree farmer, a potato farmer, or a bee keeper.
It would be fun to be a Christmas tree farmer, because trees and wildlife are one of my interests. If I was a Christmas tree farmer then the town could buy trees from my farm instead of buying pre-cut Christmas trees. My prices would be low so everyone could afford them. Buying a pre-cut tree is wrong; we don’t live in a city! A lot of animals live in Christmas trees and that would be interesting to see all those animals in and around the trees. My family and I once found a bird nest in our tree. We get it out each year and put it in our new Christmas tree.
Secondly it would be interesting to be a potato farmer. Doing that job would only be part time because I could only farm in the summer and fall. It would also be exotic because there are a lot of different colored potatoes. There are red, blue, purple, and yellow potatoes and many more. You can only get a few colors of potatoes at the supermarket, so it would be different. Potatoes originate from the Andes of South America. I could make my own potato chips and other potato products. Potatoes don’t require a lot of work like other plants, and that would be helpful.
Finally I would like to be a beekeeper. Being a beekeeper would be a good job because it would be different from other jobs. If I was a beekeeper, I would get stung now and then, but now there are special suits that protect you from the bees. Apiaries1 are small farms, so I wouldn’t need a lot of land. It would be different because our town doesn’t have an apiary. I love honey, especially clover honey. You can make lots of different products from bees and their honey. It would also be a local product which would be good, and it wouldn’t have to be shipped from far away. I could also build boxes for the bees to go into, and they wouldn’t cost very much money to make.
In conclusion it would be fun to be a farmer in Monkton. Being a farmer would have its ups and downs, but still it would be an enjoyable job. You could be a farmer if you wanted to do something different from what others are doing. There are a lot of farms in Monkton, but most are the same type: dairy farms. Farming something different would do a lot of good for this town.
footnote 1: Bee farm(s)
What’s the Buzz?
I took to the air, I powered my wings and launched off the hive. My wings pumped as I searched for pollen. My antenna caught wind of some pollen near by. I soared toward the scent. I twisted and turned in the air, doing acrobatic tricks in the air until I landed on a lovely pollen filled tulip. I extended my proboscis into the flower and started slurping up some nectar while my feet dug for pollen. Then, a large, looming black shadow stormed past, almost knocking me from my tulip. I decided to go show the thing who it was dealing with when I heard a GLUB! GLUB! GLUB!
I buzzed over to where I heard the noise and landed on what felt like a polished tree. My superior honey bee senses instantly picked up what it was. It looked as if some liquid full of odd chunks such as what I defined as apples and some other vegetables. They were being poured into a sort of containment unit. And it smelled wretched! Then, as if the smell wasn’t enough, huge pink things that snorted stormed over. They were humungous, must have been miles tall and there was dozens of ’em. They had hard things at the bottom of their stubby legs. Their noses were stretched out and had holes in them! Then their antennas were very wide and flat, they drooped down the sides of their heads. Then they had some sort of curly stinger on their behinds.
Then there was a large booming coming from the thing I wanted to sting earlier. It sounded like this, “GOOD PIGS!”
I think the beast was referring to the pink monsters. I guess they were called pigs. And they ate a disgusting, chunky fluid.
The large beast that had said those foreign words turned and bent down. I caught a glimpse of it. It was a human! I had better keep myself hidden. Humans were known to kill anything they didn’t like, especially us. They live in these large box shaped trees. A hive had once built a home on one of those things and the whole hive was found dead by one of our scouts. Bad, huh?
Well, I continued to follow the human to its next destination. When he was a good distance away, I took to the air and landed on his back. I could only imagine what the Queen would say if she saw me do this. The human stopped and it opened something that creaked terribly loud. I almost fell at the sound. Then there was a sloshing and another noise that sounded like someone was stuffing a sort of string into a box.
I flew off the human’s back and landed on something covered in a soft field of fuzz. I nestled into the forest and waited and watched. The human was stuffing a sort of straw into another containment unit. Then the field I was sitting in started to move toward that straw substance. I launched off and saw a beast that was white, but it had black stains all over it. Then another, and another, and another. There was a whole field of them! They looked nearly the same as those pig monsters, but they were three times larger! They had long, droopy stingers with puff balls on the ends and they had these weird abdomen shaped antenna that stood up with a tag on one ear. Under their body they had these weird pink handles. They smelled even worse than the pigs and they had much longer legs. There was a crunching as some of the monsters munched on the straw.
The human said, “That’s right, eat up cows.”
He was a good distance away from where I was hovering. I guess the spotted beasts were called cows. The human stroked one of these “cow” beasts on its long, muscled neck.
The human walked off in another direction. I zipped over toward it. He walked into a cage and grabbed the most monstrous of the three creatures I’d seen. It was a cloud! But it was just a beast pretending to be a cloud, for it had a black head and legs. The legs had the same hard substance as the “cow” and “pig”, but it was smaller. Its head was in the shape of my hive. It had droopy antenna just like the “pig’s”, but it had a tag just like the “cow’s” antenna. It was a beastly mixture of the two!
The human stroked it and called it a “sheep.” The human walked the “sheep” onto a stand of some sort. Then some clinks as he hooked a “bucket” (as I heard him call it) onto the stand. The “sheep” monster started eating what was in the bucket. All of a sudden, there was a terrible buzzing as he turned on a machine the size of his hand. The human started to shove it into the fur of the cloud monster and the cloud part of the beast started falling off! Parts of the cloud were falling off the monster!
Then after a long period of time, there was a pile of cloud on the rocky floor and a black, bare “sheep” standing on the stand. The human walked the cloudless cloud monster back to its cage and then he started to stuff the cloud material into a basket. When it finished that it placed the basket on the stand and walked toward another thing. The human stopped at a cage full of mini “cow” creatures. They made a sound like “Be-e-e-e-e-”and had droopy ears. The human tied one to a rope and said, “Its okay Terry. We just need to milk you and a couple other goats.”
I think the species of small “cow” is called either “Terry” or “goats.” But I’m going with “goats.” The human walked the “goat” creature onto another stand. The human placed a bucket under it. Then I realized that there were little handles at the bottom of the “goat.” Just like the “cow.”
This time, the human pinched those handles at the top and then used the rest of its fingers to squeeze a white liquid from the handles. He did this with some more “goats” until he had several buckets full of the white liquid.
The human locked up the “goats” and walked into one of its box trees and I flew back to the hive to tell everyone what I witnessed.

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