By Guy Page
A South Hero farmer says he lost a government contract as a result of his December 29, 2021 op-ed in the Vermont Daily Chronicle warning parents about public school advocacy for transgender identity.
Vermont Daily Chronicle has reached out to the Northwestern Regional Planning Commission of Vermont and will promptly publish any response received. An op-ed about the non-renewed contract was published on VDC last night. In an interview this morning, author Robert Fireovid described what happened.
Fireovid, 71, is a former white-collar worker who, with his wife Joan Falcao, operates Health Hero farm. They raise and butcher grassfed beef for their customers, mostly individuals.
To help pay the bills, Fireovid and his wife also rent out storage space, including coolers and freezers, to the Healthy Roots Collaborative, a NWRPCVT subsidiary that ‘gleans,’ i.e. collects collects vegetables farmers can’t sell and distributes them to food shelves and food banks.
Health Hero provided the storage, the government-funded regional planning organization paid the bills, and everything was fine until March 2022, when Healthy Roots declined to renew the contract past June, 2022. At the time, it didn’t say why. However, a representative of the organization subsequently told him the letter bothered the regional planning group, which has a Diversity, Inclusion and Equity policy.
The op-ed doesn’t name any particular school or school personnel or NWRPCVT. Nevertheless, Health Hero lost the contract.
“I can understand how you would feel ostracized,” the representative said in a spring, 2022 letter. “However, there are consequences to voicing views and supporting policies that harm the most vulnerable and historically oppressed in our society – transgender, queer, people of color, indigenous people, and undocumented foreign workers. Northwest Regional Planning Commission has zero tolerance for that.”
The reference to people of color is telling, Fireovid believes. Earlier, he had protested vociferously after a Zoom presentation, sponsored by the South Hero Land Trust, about BIPOC farm ownership. The chief presenter – a black person – expressed racism towards white people, he claimed.
Fireovid said he applauds getting people of color more involved in farm ownership. “But I was appalled by this one black presenter,” who said “White farmers, they don’t care for the land, they trash the land, so we want to come in and do it right.”
The same presenter also said “If I do farming, I don’t want to do the grunt work, I just want to be the head honcho.” Fireovid laughs at the recollection of that comment, but adds that the emergence of racist, anti-white views is no laughing matter.
Shortly after the pandemic began, increasingly ‘woke’ rural farming organizations like Rural Vermont and NOFA began to promote the notion of white supremacy in farming, he says.
“I would hear things like ‘there is a lot of white supremacy here in Vermont, we have to do something about it.’”
As Fireovid sees it, that’s just punishing the poor.
“The really poor people in Vermont are rural white poor people. That’s where the real poverty is. You’re just trashing them.”
Fireovid complained to SHLT executive and board leadership. SHLT has since withdrew its community garden from Health Hero, which the farm had provided at no cost. Someone connected with SHLT leadership wrote an article in Front Porch Forum criticizing Fireovid’s VDC gender fluidity op-ed.
VDC also has reached out to SHLT for comment. Fireovid said he was told by SHLT director Emily Alger, “If we have anyone [working in the garden] who was a transgender person, and they knew about this article, they would not feel safe.”
Yet the only person he knew was transgender requested to return after an initial day in the garden, he said.
The NWRPCVT statement of inclusion is published on its website.