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Ceres triumphant

If, on your next hegira to Montpelier, you elevate your deferential gaze to the symbolic statue topping the Golden Dome, you'll see the image of Ceres the Roman goddess of agriculture.

Why Montpelier's "goddess" is pagan and isn't the likes of either Christian St. Benedict or St. Isidore, both recognized post-pagan patron saints of agriculture, I know not, but I might guess that if a male choice were acceptable (subjunctive contrary to fact) today, it wouldn't be St. Benedict because his motto is "Pray and Work"-somewhat unwelcome notions in a predominantly irreverent Western culture in general and an increasingly passive-income-oriented Vermont economy in particular.

But in that context, Ceres is a very appropriate icon: not only isn't she dressed for serious farm work, she's also shown in Roman iconography as the elite "buy local" goddess with "green" food co-op fiber shopping bag in hand who comes in to collect the goodies after the real labor of plowing, seeding, and cultivating has been done by subordinate stiffs.

Thomas Jefferson-separation of religion and governance notwithstanding-would like a religious symbol for agriculture atop the state house; it was appropriate in 1790 when farming was 90 percent of the economy in Vermont and all through the country. But now, in Vermont, it's only 12 percent of Gross State Product and 3 percent of employment, Wikipedia states.

The StateMaster.com website shows Vermont as no. 52 in GSP, well behind both the non-states of District of Columbia at no. 36 and Puerto Rico at no. 37, but the Wikipedia site show the state as no. 1 in craft breweries per capita, a grain-based ag enterprise.

Even so, as I've documented in previous commentaries, agriculture is the fastest-shrinking major sector of the Vermont economy. Vermont's passive income, some of it doubtless spent on craft beer, is the fastest growing.

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