On Monday afternoon, Jasper Hill Farm posted a photo to its Facebook and Instagram accounts that showed racist graffiti painted on a barn at Andersonville Farm. A swastika and Nazi “SS” symbol, “#get out” and the word “nigger” (censored in the photo by Jasper Hill staff) were visible on the side of the structure.
The West Glover facility, which is owned by Jasper Hill and produces raw milk for their cheesemaking, was vandalized late in the evening last Thursday. The company, which employs 78 people, is contributing $1,000 to a crowdfunded $5,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
Mateo Kehler, Jasper Hill’s founder and head cheesemaker, said that similar graffiti was found in seven locations around Glover, Craftsbury and Greensboro. Vermont State Police and the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department could not confirm that number. A press release from officials said that several related incidents occurred at the same time.
“This was an attack on our community at large,” Kehler said Tuesday. “We felt compelled to respond.”
Vermont State Police Lt. Walter Smith said Tuesday afternoon that the incidents are not being investigated as hate crimes at this time, but investigators are sensitive to the inflammatory nature of the messages.
“When you have an incident this grotesque, it enhances how we as a society look at it,” Smith said. “It’s not something that any of us accept. It’s wrong.” Smith encouraged anyone with information related to the incidents to share it with investigators.
Last summer, a series of similar incidents in Craftsbury drew attention from residents. A Sterling College building was egged after displaying a rainbow flag following the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. A Black Lives Matter sign was stolen from the school. A nearby resident who also posted a Black Lives Matter sign found a bag containing a dead cat left on his property.
Following the 2016 presidential election, several news outlets reported an increase in anti-Semitic, racist and Islamophobic hate crimes and graffiti, while acknowledging that accurate data around these types of incidents can be difficult to track.
Susan Leff, the executive director of Jewish Communities of Vermont, said she counted about 20 anti-Semitic incidents in the state immediately following the election, “a huge increase.”
“We’re very concerned that people seem to feel like they have permission to do this kind of thing when they didn’t have that permission a year ago,” she said.
Leff plans to contact a Jewish acquaintance who works at Jasper Hill to discuss the graffiti. “I was very, very disappointed to see this,” she said. “It had quieted down for a while. This is a big escalation.”
In his post on the Jasper Hill Facebook page, Mateo Kehler wrote that he believes that “the current political climate has granted hateful people license to express violence and intolerance openly.”
“That kind of violent language is an affront to the security of our community at large,” he said Tuesday. “I just come back to thinking about my grandfather, and my wife’s grandparents and all the grandparents in our community who went to fight Nazis to ensure that hateful and dangerous ideologies won’t have a place in this world.”
Within 24 hours, Kehler’s post on the Jasper Hill Facebook page had been shared almost 3,000 times. The response led Kehler to set up a fundraiser on gofundme.com, soliciting donations to increase the reward amount to $5,000.
“If people are caught and convicted of this, we hope that there will be an opportunity for community service,” he said. “We want to educate and help change people’s minds. That could be a positive outcome.”