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Cupid comes to the farm

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You've heard of speed dating? Some Vermont organic farmers are trying out a slower paced, you could say...more rural, alternative: weed dating. It has nothing to do with smoking marijuana.

In speed dating, you spend only a few minutes chatting, then move on in a fast-paced round robin with several potential partners.

Weed daters have plenty of time to get acquainted as they move down row after row, pulling weeds.

As part of an environment reporting collaboration with Northeast stations, Steve Zind of Vermont Public Radio has our story.

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The breeze that moves over the fields of this Tunbridge, Vermont organicvegetable farm carries the threat of rain. But there's also a promise ofromance in the air.

"We're all going to get nice and dirty..."

Officially, Jean Hamilton does marketing for the Northeast OrganicFarming Association in Vermont, which organized this first-ever weed datingevent. But today, she's Cupid.

"So, we've given you a vegetable last name, in case you want to remain moreanonymous than you are."

The weed daters, who range in age from their 20s to 50s, wear whimsical nametags. Emily Blackberry, Elizabeth Garlic, and Karl Basil are among the 10or so people who turned out. There are some no-shows: Mostly men,we're told. Whether they were afraid of commitment, or just hate weeding, we'llnever know.

But none of those things rattle Ben Wolfe, a.k.a. Ben Blueberry. He'shoping to meet a woman who shares his gardening passion.

"It says something about someone if you're willing to do work whileyou meet people rather than doing something leisurely."

And there's nothing leisurely about the way weed dater Caitlin Henzler isapproaching this.

"I am a very competitive weeder, actually, which is probably a badtrait for this situation (laughs)"

Henzler works as an apprentice on a farm in Western Massachusetts. She's driven two hours to be here.

"Because I'm looking to meet a farmer. There aren't many opportunities forfarmers to co-mingle."

It turns out this crowd is mostly made up of serious gardeners. All share acommitment to local food.

"Get our weeding started, let's go!"

They pair off and begin weeding several long rows of leeks.

"Okay, so everybody move down a row."

Every 7 minutes or so, the clatter of a goat bell tells them its time tochange partners. A new round begins with the couples exchanging muddyhandshakes.

"Beautiful, is everybody paired up? Awesome!"

The chit chat here is earnest, covering topics like climate change andbartering.

"I bartered for my yoga classes, I bartered for my snow plowing. It was great!"

Weed dating is finished once all the pairing possibilities have beenexhausted. It's unclear whether any romances have been kindled heretoday.

Caitlin Henzler, the competitive weeder, offers this assessment.

"It was fun. I can't say I met anyone that I'd be interested indating."

Josh Schlosberg has found he's more comfortable meeting people over weedsthan drinks.

"I like the idea of doing an activity that's meaningful, rather than sizingeach other like a piece of meat. Instead, we're casually weeding and ifsomething works out, it works out."

Weed dating organizers say they're on to something, and they plan moreevents. After all, few things are more eternal than love and weeds.

For North Country Public Radio, I'm Steve Zind.

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