Friday, April 13, 2012


News to Know - Anne Burke

Much of the community and folks throughout the state have some fond memories of Anne Burke to reflect on.... if you weren't fortunate enough to know Anne, take the time to talk with your friends and neighbors who did. Anne will be greatly missed.

Anne O. Burke

BERLIN - Anne Olmstead Burke, of Berlin, passed away April 11, 2012, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center with family at her side. She was the daughter of Russell and Violet (Eastwood) Olmstead, of Hazardville, Conn.
Anne was born in Enfield, Conn., on May 17, 1924. The family moved to Royalton where she graduated from South Royalton High School in 1942.
She married Warren "Buddy" Benoit in 1946.
Later she married Raymond F. Burke on April 8, 1961, in Haverhill, N.H. They moved to Berlin in 1963. They started Harvest Hill Farm in 1965 which was the love of her life. Anne and Ray raised registered Ayrshires and Charolais. They passed on their passion and love of animals to their children who continue to farm.
Anne had many events she looked forward to attending every year. Each year started with the farm show which Harvest Hill Farm provided an Ayrshire cow for the political pull. She was very involved with area Dairy Days, field days and fairs. In the summer she loved to be on the tractor baling hay. Tunbridge Fair was her favorite fair to watch her grandchildren and great-grandchildren show the cattle from the farm. She also looked forward to taking her best Ayrshire cow to the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road. Anne was proud of the wreath and garland business she started, which has trickled down through the generations.
Anne's survivors are her husband, Raymond F. Burke; her brother Charles Olmstead and wife Dorothy, of South Royalton; her sisters Harriet Lyman, of Sharon, and Tiny Moore, of Menan, Idaho; and many nieces and nephews; her daughter, Lyn Morris, and husband Roy Morris, of Berlin; son Kelly Burke and wife Renee Burke, of Berlin; son Brody "Sam" Burke and wife Lucia Burke, of Berlin; 10 grandchildren: granddaughters Shelly Roy and husband Alan Roy, Rose McAllister and husband Richie McAllister, Christine Webb, Tammy Miller and husband Luke Miller, Vera Frazier and husband Craig Frazier, Beckey Thompson and husband Ross Thompson, Brandy Burke, Bonnie "Chloe" Burke-Whiteside, grandsons Ethan Burke and Jesse Burke; 15 great-grandchildren: Todd Roy, Benjamin McAllister, Kahli McAllister, Casey McAllister, Connor Morgan, Michael "Mickey" Witham, Merrill Witham, Nicholas Witham, Emily Frazier, Alyssa Frazier, Ashley Thompson, Amber Thompson, Colin Trottier, Hayden Trottier, Erin Trottier; and one great-great-granddaughter, Grace McAllister.
Calling hours will be held Sunday, April 15, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a funeral service beginning at 1 p.m. at the Guare & Sons Funeral Home, 30 School St., Montpelier.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department, 338 Paine Turnpike North, Berlin, VT 05602.
Those wishing to express online condolences may do so at
Published in Times Argus on April 13, 2012

Beloved Berlin farmer Burke dies, 87

By David Delcore
Staff Writer - Published: April 13, 2012

BERLIN — If there were flags on Vermont farms, they would have been flying at half-staff Thursday as news of Anne Burke’s passing crept through the state. She was 87.
Burke was born in Connecticut and died in New Hampshire on Wednesday, but if you were looking for a Green Mountain woman, those who knew her well — and many of those who didn’t — would tell you she was the real deal.
Burke was a cow-loving, tractor-driving, egg-selling, sugar-making, wreath-producing woman who held farmers in high esteem and really, really, really enjoyed being one.
Just ask Jon Turmel.
“She was really proud to be a Vermont farmer,” the longtime manager of the Vermont Farm Show said hours after learning that Burke had died at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. A family member said she died of complications after open-heart surgery in February.
That pride showed, according to Turmel, who described Burke as a peerless ambassador for Vermont’s farming community.
“There isn’t anybody, and I mean anybody, who was a better spokesperson for Vermont agriculture than Annie,” Turmel said. “She was a special lady.”
Burke, who settled in Berlin with her husband, Ray, in 1963 and started Harvest Hill Farm there two years later, was known to generations of schoolchildren as “the cow lady.” That is to say she was the lady who brought the cows — to “Dairy Day” on the Statehouse lawn until that once-popular tradition was abandoned a few years back, to Washington County Fair and Field Days, to the Milk Bowl each summer at Thunder Road, to the Tunbridge Fair, and to the Vermont Farm Show, where lawmakers tried their hand at milking one of her prized Ayrshires during the annual “Political Pull.”
Burke’s cows were always good-natured and always, always, always pristine, recalled Turmel.
“If they weren’t perfect she wouldn’t leave the farm with them,” he said.
How does Turmel know?
“She told me,” he said. “She’d say: ‘I want people to see how we take care of our animals here in Vermont.’ That’s just the way she was.”
Turmel described Burke as both vivacious and lovable while admitting “the cow lady” was also old-school and obstinate in the friendliest of ways.
Turmel recalled Burke interceding when he refused to let a Farm Show patron drink a glass of fresh but unprocessed milk, which had just come straight from one of her cows.
“(Burke) downed that glass in front of me and said, ‘I’m not dead,’ and gave me a big hug,” he recalled.
Turmel said Burke shared her passion for farming with her children and grandchildren and just about anyone who would listen.
“She was always upbeat,” he recalled. “Even when milk prices were really low she was still a real good spokesperson.”
Turmel said he was sorry to hear of Burke’s death and sorrier still that she doesn’t yet have a place in Vermont’s Agricultural Hall of Fame.
“I’ve thought of nominating her several times,” he said. “I wish I had now.”
Others who knew Burke described her as a hardworking family woman with smiling eyes, who was always helpful, extremely talkative and very competitive.
“We all admired (Burke’s) dedication to her family and their farm,” said Ed Larson, who ran Washington County Fair and Field Days for several years.
Jackie Folsom, a Cabot dairy farmer who showed cows at many of the same events Burke did over the years, gasped when she was informed Burke had died.
“What a pity!” said Folsom, who was out of the state Thursday. “She was just a wonderful woman and a great promoter of dairy farms.”

Folsom said Burke was especially good with children — patiently showing them how to milk a cow.
“She just loved talking to people and sharing her animals with everyone,” Folsom said.
According to Folsom, Burke also “loved her life” and it showed.
“She had a twinkle in those blue eyes that was just so wonderful to look at, and she had a smile to go with it,”Folsom said. “She’ll definitely be missed.”



The Vermont Beef Cattle Come in All Colors Activity Book which can be found at the following link is dedicated to Anne Burke !

Dedication: This book of fun and learning is dedicated to all beef producers, but especially to Anne Burke of Berlin, Vermont. Anne, together with her family, raises purebred registered Charolais beef cattle on their small hillside farm.. Beef producers, like all farmers, provide us with a landscape that is absolutely breath-taking. A landscape that is open, productive, and managed for all Vermont children to enjoy!!


A story in the paper two years ago:

Anne Burke knows just where her next meal's coming from
By SUSAN ALLEN TIMES ARGUS EDITOR - Published: May 11, 2009
BERLIN – It seems as though a developer calls or knocks almost daily with the offer of a big check and some grand vision for Anne Burke's Harvest Hill Farm.
"They've all got good ideas of what it ought to be," Burke said last week, seated on the front porch of the farmhouse, waiting for her Ayrshires to come down off the hill for the evening milking.
"I kick 'em off the doorstep every day," she laughed.
Burke said they seem to ask, "What's the matter with you dumb farmers? Don't you know where a dollar comes from?"
"I know where my dinner comes from," is her reply.
When Ray and Anne Burke bought a few acres in 1963 and began building what is now an 80-acre farm, Berlin resembled a crossroads. The lot just below the old farmhouse was
a field where Anne's cows grazed.
Last week, from the porch, we looked out at that same lot — now home to the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce —and out over the Central Vermont Medical Center, several automobile dealerships, the Berlin Mall and more.
This is large development by Vermont standards — all of it making the Burke's farm a land of opportunity in the eyes of some. But not hers. "They aren't the same ideas," she said of her vision of the farm and the development offers that come her way.
Anne Burke grew up on a farm in New Hampshire. When she and Ray moved to Vermont with their young children and bought the land in Berlin, he took a job with the state and she decided to try a little farming. They bought one cow and a tractor, and she took on the chore of haying.
"Dad said, 'Are you sure you know how to run it?'" Anne chuckled, recalling Ray's worry about his tiny wife on the tractor. "I said, 'Oh, yeah, dad … I know how.'"
One worried neighbor called another that afternoon, she said, saying, "There's some little girl out there with a big tractor and she's going to get killed."
Anne Burke cut the field in one day.
"I said, 'dad, if I had a baler, I'd bale it,'" Anne recalled. So a baler was purchased, along with more cows, and Anne began raising veal calves for sale. Along the way, she carefully studied genetics and began building an award winning registered herd. Recently, two of her calves sold for $4,000 each.
In addition, she sells manure, wreaths (the city of Montpelier uses her wreaths during the holidays), fresh eggs and maple syrup.
"Wherever there's a nickel, we're on it," she said, her face yet again screwed up into a big smile.
"We're diversified. So many of the big farms, they're not," she said, noting that those farms take a beating when the price of milk is as low as it is now.
"They owe everybody; we don't," Burke adds. "We don't buy anything until we can pay for it, and if we can't pay for it, we don't buy it."
She's also a dowser, a gift she believes runs in families and has been handed down to her young granddaughter, Becky.
"My grandfather was a dowser. He was walking around with a stick all day" looking for water, Burke said. "You either have the power or you don't."
For her, the pull of the underground water on the stick was strong from the first day she tried at around age 7. But for husband Ray, she quipped, "He could stand with his feet in the water and his stick still wouldn't go down."
Years ago, I used to talk to Ray regularly in his job as a dispatcher for the Agency of Transportation. As an Associated Press reporter at the time, arriving at work at 6 a.m. in a snowstorm, my first task of the day was to call Ray Burke and ask what roads around the state were closed.
Although blind, he knew Vermont roadways backwards and forwards, and would go on the local radio stations with similar reports of weather hazards for the morning commute.
Once retired and suddenly back on the farm with Anne, "I had to find something he can do and not mess anything up," she said. He's a good milker, she added.
What will the land look like in 10 or 20 years, I ask. Her three children, their spouses and the Burke's grandchildren all help around the farm (they live within shouting distance).
"My great-granddaughter Emily is a cow-lady, too," she said, confident the land will stay in the family and in farming. And of grandson Jessie, "If you've got to stack bales of hay, just call 1-800-Jessie. He'll do it."
Her advice to other women beginning to farm or taking over a family farm is clear.
"Prove to the rest of the world that you can do a good job. Never mind if you're a woman or a man, we've all got to prove it."
"Keep a good standing in the town. We always pay our bills. They know we're not fly by night."
"Keep up the stock well."

To learn more about Anne Burke:
Burke and granddaughter Becky are on the cover and featured in Peter Miller's book "Vermont Farm Women." Miller established the Vermont Farm Women's Fund from a percentage of book sales.
The Vermont Farm Women photo exhibit is part of a three-floor show at Studio Place Arts in Barre through June 6, 2009.

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