March dawned gray, and wintry, with a few tentative signs of spring. Mud on back roads, and sap buckets sprouting on maple trees. A soft white blanket of snow on the ground this morning, a light snow falling, thick sheets of white sliding off the roof, the land still in the firm grasp of winter. Last weekend, surrounded by spring blooms, inside the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex, Vermont. Flowers and trees forced into bloom in greenhouses, planted in a fantasy garden-scape. An inspiration for the growing season to come. Thousands of visitors, Vermonters in need of a small dose of spring, a reminder that the growing season is within reach.
A mix of suburban sprawl, big box shops, industrial development and rural beauty, Essex sits between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains. A criss-cross of country roads, rail-lines and highways set in a broad river valley, mountains on the eastern horizon. The town’s rich agricultural and logging history still visible in the cracks between development and sprawl. The Champlain Valley Exposition firmly planted in the middle of it all – host to Vermont’s largest agricultural fair, honoring traditional rural values, fighting for economic sustainability.