Work motivates Bristol man to earn his degree

BRISTOL — Trevor Farr wasn’t planning to continue his education after he graduated from Mount Abraham Union High School in 2003.
“When I graduated high school, I didn’t have any intention of going to college. It’s normal in my heritage to work in construction. My dad was a carpenter,” said Farr.
Fast forward a dozen years and the Bristol native found he needed some education to advance in a job that had become his career. He started taking classes at Community College of Vermont’s Middlebury site and found he could do really well; he even became a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
Next week, Farr will not only graduate from CCV, he will also be the student speaker at the June 2 commencement ceremony in Northfield. The 32-year-old Bristol resident will be awarded an Associate’s Degree in Science, Technology and Mathematics from CCV-Middlebury.
The first in his family to earn a college degree, he was nominated to speak by his professors and classmates.
It took Farr three years to complete his studies. During that time he worked nights at the Agri-Mark/Cabot cheese plant in Middlebury, where he was responsible for mixing and calibrating the bacterial cultures used to make Cabot cheddar cheeses.
Earning this degree may not have been an obvious move for Fare after Mount Abe. He poured concrete for a few years, but eventually took a job at Hinesburg’s former Saputo Cheese factory (the factory closed in 2010) after growing tired of seasonal lay-offs.
“Pouring concrete is hard, low-paying work,” said Farr.
At Saputo, he started as a utility operator, and eventually moved into whey and cheese processing. At Agri-Mark, he developed an interest in the science of cheesemaking, and was told he needed to further his education if he wanted to move into a management role in the company.
At about the same time, his friend Chris Bohjalian, the successful writer, lent him a book: Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” a personal account of a disastrous mission to Mt. Everest. Reading it changed Farr’s thinking.
“I thought, we are all afraid of change, you know? I’m lucky in a lot of ways — I have a kid, a house, I’m married — but I was stuck in a dead-end job. Going to college was a leap of faith,” said Farr. “I decided I wanted to be an example for my six-year-old son, Brayden.”
Today, with the aid of his CCV-Middlebury education, Farr has been promoted to the role of Plant Sanitarian. He’s responsible for inspecting equipment, and as he points out, for ensuring the health of the thousands upon thousands of people who eat Cabot cheese, and the livelihoods of the local farmers who rely on the company to buy their milk.
He said his CCV-Middlebury coursework gave him a new way to look at his work as Cabot’s culture maker. He jumped between mornings with his son, chemistry and biology labs in the afternoon, and 10-hour graveyard shifts at the cheese plant to pay the bills. He said the hardest part was sacrificing time with Brayden and his wife, Melissa.
“I have a few more gray hairs than I used to,” Farr said.
Farr says that learning about spontaneity in chemical reactions expanded his interest in food science.
“Everybody thinks cheesemaking is automated these days, that it’s simple … but it’s really complex,” he said. “It takes constant changes to the recipe to make good cheddar.”
Farr plans to continue working for Agri-Mark after his CCV graduation. He says his next goal is to enroll in the Nutrition and Food Sciences program at the University of Vermont. Agri-Mark’s tuition matching program will pay for his continuing education in this field, provided he maintains adequate grades.
“It’s not about the money though, it’s about having more responsibility, an impact,” said Farr.
“The experience at CCV really built my confidence and self-awareness,” said Farr. “Everybody in my classes was very resourceful. We had similar experiences… We’re all climbing our own mountains. We all have a little Krakauer in us.”
Farr’s father is planning to travel from Georgia to attend the ceremony, which starts at 2 p.m. in Shapiro Field House at Norwich University in Northfield. Farr will be one of 20 students from the Middlebury campus to earn their associate degrees that day.
When he addresses his fellow students, parents and others at graduation, Farr plans to thank his professors.
“It’ll be a little corny,” he said.

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