Paquette inducted into Vt. Ag Hall of Fame

MIDDLEBURY — Everyone in Addison County knows Lucien Paquette, he moved to Addison County in 1946 to become County Extension Agent. Over 36 years in that position he became the best-known agriculturalist in the county.
Working with farmers of all sorts of crops — from apples to dairy — he developed a reputation that continues to be strong today.
Because of his enduring ties to farming in the Green Mountain State, Paquette recently was inducted into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Lucien and his wife, Loretta, raised 12 children in Middlebury. Ten of his children and two grandkids accompanied him to the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction on Aug. 27, where he was welcomed into the Ag Hall of Fame in a special ceremony.
“In the ceremony the chair of the committee said who I was nominated by, two or three people, and then she went a little overboard and said I was nominated by all of Addison County,” Paquette said.
Paquette, 98, was born in Craftsbury, Vt., on Aug. 14, 1916.
At the 2014 edition of Addison County Fair and Field Days last month he was mowing hay by hand and leading the annual contest as he has since he started in 1978.
When he came to Addison County, Paquette and others sought to create a new agricultural celebration. They got it going in 1948. It’s a long way from that first year with one used army tent and lots of agriculture. Rides for the children consisted of local farmers giving rides to youngsters on their ponies.
At first, the event, called Addison County Field Days, was held on a different farm each year. In 1967 organizers bought the New Haven land on which the fairgrounds now sit.
In an interview with the Independent last month, Paquette recalled that when the fair was started, rationing from World War II had just been lifted, meaning that products that had been restricted to consumers became available again. As manufacturing shifted away from wartime production, factories began making new farm equipment. Paquette said field days events were important, because organizers could invite manufacturers to demonstrate their new equipment.
“I thought this would lend itself well for demonstration, for providers of this type of equipment, and that’s how we started,” he said.
In fact, Paquette envisioned the event as an agricultural celebration and workshop — the notion of a fair did not come about until years later.
“I didn’t even have it in mind that this was going to be a fair,” Paquette said. “We went several years calling it ‘Field Days’ and finally put the word ‘fair’ in there.”
Paquette said organizers wanted Field Days to stick to its agricultural roots, instead of becoming too commercialized.
“One of the things we didn’t want to happen here is the development of a big midway,” Paquette said. “That has grown quite a lot, but I think all these other activities are strong — the farm, the home and the youth.”
The proud UVM alumnus said he’s glad that UVM Extension still plays a large role in Field Days.
In addition to continuing with his handmowing (he mows a piece of Middlebury College land by hand each summer and uses the cut grass as mulch for his garden), Paquette keeps a hand in agriculture by cultivating a large garden — 45 feet by 60 feet.
“I’ve already canned over 60 quarts of tomatoes and there’s more on the vine,” Paquette said this week.
Paquette has seen a lot of change in farming. When he first came to this part of Vermont in 1946, he said, there were more than 2,000 farms in Addison County; now there are fewer than 1,000 in all of Vermont.
But when he travels around he says the landscape has a lot of similarity to what it looked like more than 50 years ago.
“A good percentage of the workable land in the county is still being operated agriculturally by the larger (dairy) farms,” he said, adding that there are more farms growing grain and vegetables. “Addison County is still quite productive.”
Editor’s note: Zach Despart contributed to this story.

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