By Gordon Dritschilo
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., spent a morning in Rutland on Wednesday hearing about what is being done for local food and local children.
Welch began the day addressing the University of Vermont Extension's agritourism conference at the Paramount Theatre.
"If we're going to build viable communities, we have to have the capacity to grow locally produced food," Welch told the assembly.
Welch said what can be grown will vary from community to community, and small farmers will need ways -- such as agritourism -- to supplement their income, but small local agriculture is a key part of getting the country to change the way it eats.
"When we have this intensive agriculture so dependent on pesticides and herbicides ... it gets you asking the question, isn't there a better way?" he said.
Welch said in the age of globalization we risk losing control of our communities.
"The best response to the forces of globalization is intense localization," he said. "It has to include a very strong and durable local agriculture sector. ... What you're doing is really hard and I appreciate that. ... You do it because you love it and you do it because it's important."
Congress' role, Welch said, is to give them the support that will let small farms have "an even chance."
After his speech at the Paramount, Welch went across the street for a tour of the Wonderfeet Kids' Museum.
"This is unbelievable," he said as he surveyed the exhibits. "It's got so much light and beautiful design and it feels like it's just on a kids' scale."
Welch said he was particularly impressed by the scale of the volunteer effort behind the museum.
"It's Rutland on the move," he said. "It's just another indication people here are figuring out how to make this a better community."
Welch said the visit would see him return to Washington mindful of the importance of programs for children.
"They're the future," he said. "We spend a lot of time talking about Ukraine and political arguments. You come in here and see how fundamentally important the basics are -- taking care of your kids. Parents have primary responsibility, but a community has to step up the way Rutland is and show children and parents how to help each other."
Welch said he intended to come back and see the museum in full swing after shopping at the farmers market in the summer.