hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires

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An escape route from dairy farming’s crisis?

At a time of profound hardship in the dairy industry, the few farmers optimistic enough to start new cow dairies are creating organic ones. For conventional dairy farmers, milk prices have been in a prolonged slump, and lots of small and mid-sized operators across New York and Vermont have quit the business in the past decade. It turns out that organic milk isn’t immune from pricing pressures, but the market differs from the conventional model in some significant ways.

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A soothing crop for stressful times

Lavender becomes focus of couple’s back-to-the-land enterprise.
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Pushing back against plastic

Environmental advocates around the region are stepping up their efforts to reduce plastic waste by calling for bans on certain single-use plastics -- shopping bags and water bottles -- while some are asking restaurants and their patrons to cut back on using plastic straws.

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Primary elections near in Vermont and Mass.

Primary elections on Aug. 14 in Vermont and Sept. 4 in Massachusetts will set the stage for several statewide races this fall. And the balloting will effectively determine the winner of some local positions for which one or the other major party isn’t fielding any candidates.

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New Yorker cartoonists, in two Bennington shows

Edward Koren’s bemused fossil creatures walk in a landscape of bones and stone pillars. Koren’s rueful meditations on the end of a species are on display in “Thinking About Extinction and Other Droll Things,” an exhibit that runs through Sept. 9 at the Bennington Museum. A mile away, at the Laumeister Art Center, Koren’s work also appears in exhibit of 100 original drawings by 20 cartoonists for The New Yorker.

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Pianos take to the streets - and parks

Sixteen eye-catching pianos are making guest appearances outdoors this month at parks, on library lawns and in other public spaces around Berkshire County to help raise funds for music education. The Painted Piano Project displays instruments re-imagined by local artists -- and it offers an invitation to impromptu music making.

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Belcher Hollow Forge, Handforged iron