Summer Pesto Recipe

There are so many delicious ways to enjoy fresh pesto. Stir it into sautéed green beans, mix it into a salad dressing, add a dollop to your scrambled eggs, or spread it on a pizza or sandwich. And, of course, there’s always pesto pasta.

Right now we have local, organic basil from Fresh Roots Farm in Sharon, Vt. and Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, Vt.

Summer Pesto

Ingredients
1/2 cup pine nuts (or substitute walnuts for a little something different)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2-4 garlic cloves (how garlicky do you like it?), finely grated
6 cups of basil leaves (about 3 bunches)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast the pine nuts (or walnuts) on a baking sheet until golden brown (be sure to toss at least once). This should take 5-7 minutes. After the pine nuts cool, place them in a food processor and add the cheese and garlic. Pulse until finely ground. Add the basil and pulse again until fully blended. Slowly pour in the oil until smooth (about 1 minute). Season with salt.

Cultivating Culture with Cabbage

If fermented vegetables are part of your diet, you may have already discovered FinAllie Ferments in the refrigerated section of the Market. This small, woman-owned company makes Vermont-style sauerkraut and kimchi using traditional fermentation processes. Thank you to Allie for taking the time to share her farming (and kimchi-making) story with us.

(New to fermented veggies? We hope this article inspires you to give them a try! They’re packed with probiotics, which have been shown to support immune function, improve digestion, and reduce inflammation.)

 

Q. You spent a number of years traveling around the country and working on farms before moving to Vermont. What sparked your interest in farming?

A. My number one goal when I graduated from art school in 2010 was to find inspiration through organic farming and learn more about what it takes to grow the food that I consume on a regular basis. So I packed my friends CRV full of tools and art supplies and my backpack, and we traveled around the country for around three years and helped farmers, working everywhere from Florida to Washington, including Texas, California, Idaho, Oregon, and Vermont.

Q. Why did you decide to settle in Vermont?

A. Vermont had the most incredibly supportive community and true connection to local food, so I parked it here to deepen my connection with the soil and seasonal shifts in the Green Mountains.

Q. How did you become interested in fermenting?

A. I learned on this nomadic migratory farming experience how to make kimchi and sauerkraut. When I arrived on a new farm that was the first thing I would make if there were surplus veggies, because value-added foods are a great income source for farmers and there are always ugly (not market worthy) or surplus veggies kickin’ around.

 

Q. We’d love to hear about the evolution of FinAllie. How did it move from an idea to a business?

A. Vermont had probably one or two fermenters in 2012, and they were up north in the Glover area. So I started fermenting out of a farm kitchen in Windham and selling my bubbly pickles and spicy radishes at the farmers’ market in Townshend, along with tinctures and smoothies.

Q. Who’s Fin (in FinAllie)?

A. My dog Fin and I became a duo when I was working on a farm in Washington and a litter of pups was born on my birthday in October. The farm wanted to pay me for a month of work but due to low income that season I decided to choose a big fat baby Labrador instead. Fin traveled with me, because he is a sweet boy, and this magic farm pup became my mascot!

Q. Can you tell us a little about your farm and your farming methods?

A. Currently I live in West Townshend; my farm is called GoodLight pollinator sanctuary. My partner Nate and I started our first apple trees in 2014. Since then we built an off-grid house, put in two orchards and a nut tree grove, planted hundreds of berries and chestnuts, and started using animals as lawnmowers and tillers for our veggie gardens. We are a low-till farm; we practice organic and biodynamic methods only. We grow our own chickens for eggs and meat with extra to share with our family and neighbors. We play music for our plants and bring our family in to help put love back into the soil.

 

Q. What makes FinAllie products unique or special?

A. I think what makes FinAllie unique and special is community. We buy our veggies from over 10 different Vermont organic farms. We pay these farmers in the winter before the veggies are growing through our own CSA program to help support our farmers at a time of year when they need income. We also ferment our foods in oak barrels or handmade ceramic crocks. This gives an amazing flavor and avoids the off flavors and unknown leaching imparted by plastic barrel fermented foods.

Q. Your motto is “Cultivating Culture.” Can you explain what that means to you?

A. Our motto Cultivating Culture means to me GROW YOUR MICROBIOME!!! Another word in the fermentation library is “culture” to culture—the act of imparting specific bacteria to help aid in the fermentation process. Growing food, fermenting it, and enlivening your body’s good bacteria is essential to optimal health!

For more info: finallieferments.com.

 

Local food nourishes us, supports our families, builds community, and benefits our environment.  Local Food Is Love. We are so fortunate in Vermont to have access to such a wide variety of foods made and grown by neighbors we know and trust. This is what Local Food Is Love is all about. Every summer we celebrate the local growers and producers who enhance our lives and communities in countless ways. Stay tuned for more stories about these amazing people and the unique and delicious foods they bring to our tables.

One Woman, 25 Goats, and the Best Skyr Ever

Villa Villekulla Farm is one of our newest producers at the Market. This woman-owned and operated business, located in Tunbridge, Vt. (soon to be based in Barnard), makes a goat-milk skyr that, for us, was love at first taste.

Lauren Gitlin is not only a farmer and artisanal producer, she also happens to be quite a storyteller. We think you’ll thoroughly enjoy reading about her farming journey so far and where she’s headed next. (And when you’re done, you really have to try her skyr.)

Q. We understand that you moved to Vermont from Indiana by way of New York City. Why Vermont? 

A. I spent almost a decade as a journalist in New York before getting burnt out and having pastoral fantasies of jumping ship to go live on a mountainside surrounded by animals. I’m really not hyperbolizing. Once I decided to pursue cheesemaking, there was no other place (aside from Europe, but Vermont was closer).  I had heard a lot of lore around Laini Fondiller of Lazy Lady Farm, had read about her and admired her from afar for the style of cheese she was making and her singular, uncompromising vision. She was a total legend. So I began begging her for a job, and in the meantime started working as a cheesemonger in the city. It took me five years of dogged pursuit before she finally agreed to hire me, and that’s when I packed up my car and moved to Vermont. It will be seven years ago this September.

Q. You worked for a few farms in Vermont (including Lazy Lady and Consider Bardwell) before becoming an entrepreneur. How did you become interested in farming?

A. Don’t forget Twig Farm as well! I learned an incredible amount from Michael Lee and he is for sure part of my origin story as a dairy producer.

I came to farming through cheesemaking. I had always been an enthusiastic cheese consumer, and had spent some time studying food in an academic setting (I have a master’s degree in culinary anthropology), so the next logical step was to learn to make it. But I really wanted an immersive experience and so it had to be a farmstead operation or nothing. It appealed to me to be able to gain a deep understanding of every aspect of a cheese’s life-cycle, from the decisions that inform breeding to the forage the animals are eating, the techniques and recipes at play inside the creamery, and the microbial magic inside the aging cave.

Q. What inspired you to start your own company?

A. Before I struck out on my cheesemaking path, I’d always wanted to make butter. I’d had this incredible butter in France that changed the way I thought about it completely. It was served to me on a cheese plate and was elevated from merely a condiment or ingredient to something else, something to be savored in all of its deceptive simplicity. It really spoke to me, and I was keen to one day have a chance to craft butter with a similar ethos, something that could be enjoyed much the same way a fine cheese could be. 

It was sheer happenstance that I began working with goats, because that was what Laini worked with. But once I started, there was no other option. Goats are such astounding, lovable creatures, and I knew that whatever dairy I wound up making would have to be from goat milk. After several years of working on other farms, an opportunity to rent a creamery and barn fell into my lap, and as a solo farmer, having the chance to be essentially incubated in an existing facility in close proximity to other farmers (the space I’m currently renting is the former home of Mountain Home Farm in Tunbridge) seemed like my best shot at giving these long-held dreams a go. So Laini sent me off with three pregnant goats in December of 2018 and now here I am with 25 just a few years later. That’s farm math for you.

Q. Can you tell us a little about your farm? What do you raise and what products do you currently offer? 

A. I raise goats! The long-term goal is still to make goat butter, but there’s a reason that farmstead goat butter doesn’t really exist commercially. It’s an extremely low-yield product and is expensive to make. I learned from another dairy farmer whom I really respect, Rich Larson, that there was an Icelandic dairy product called skyr which was traditionally made with skim milk left over from buttermaking, and so an idea for how to make this a viable business began to form. For various reasons (working with a breed with a low butterfat content and having so few animals that my milk volume is teensy), I’m not yet able to produce enough cream to be able to make butter for commercial sale. So for the time being, I’m only making whole milk skyr. I am hoping to get to the point in the next year or two where both volume and butterfat will increase such that I can begin producing butter and making the traditional skim milk skyr. In the meantime, I’m also in the process of developing a whey soda flavored with native botanicals that I intend to bottle and sell. Hopefully that will be ready for market soon! 

Q. What makes your products unique or special?

A. I’m not the only one out there making goat milk skyr, but mine is the only one I know of using cardoon thistle rennet (which is really a bugger to work with so I set myself up with some challenges right out the gate!). I know enough other farmer producers to know that I’m not necessarily doing anything unique. We all work really hard, we all really love our animals and pour all of ourselves into the things we make. I started out on this journey wanting to make a beautiful and delicious thing that people would enjoy eating, and that’s still true. But now the thing I make is a means to an end, and the end is being able to spend each and every day amongst my ruminant colleagues.

Q. Can you share with us some of the challenges and rewards of owning/managing a farm?

A. Developing a recipe and finetuning it, getting all the necessary licenses and passing inspections, figuring out my design, packaging, distribution—there are so many steps in the process of launching a start-up dairy business that I had no idea about, and at every stage there were setbacks and obstacles that required rethinking things, adjusting, pivoting. In that sense, what’s most challenging IS what’s most rewarding, because you have to find a way to move forward and make it work. I’ve learned a lot of things that no book could’ve taught me.

The workload is interminable. There are no sick days or vacation days. That can get exhausting, and I’ve only been at it a few years, so I marvel at the folks who’ve been doing this for decades. But that’s what I signed up for. Right now it’s just me and the occasional seasonal intern, so I long for the day when I can afford to hire an employee or two to help out. I’m not there yet. 

By far the most challenging thing is losing an animal. I work so closely with them that they’re members of my family. So even when I’m tired and/or they’re acting up (not a rarity with goats), I really savor my time with them. I never know how long I will have to make them feel loved and appreciated. They work just as hard as I do, if not harder! 

Q. Can you tell us the story behind the name of your farm?

A. Villa Villekulla is the name of the house that Pippi Longstocking lived in. She was a favorite character from a book as a kid, and seemed like the perfect spirit guide for me when I was striking out on this farming endeavor alone. I love what she represents—playfulness, a sense of wonder, super-human strength, independence, and compassion all in one small flame-haired package. The house itself was always described as ramshackle and at sixes and sevens but full of rare oddities and treasures (plus a horse who lived on the porch). That more or less captures the environment I’ve found myself in and the set of values I hope to embody with my little farm.

Q. What are your favorite ways to enjoy your yogurt? Any go-to recipes?A. If given the option, I usually go the savory route. I love making my skyr into a za’atar spiced labneh or spreading it on toast and drizzling it with olive oil and flaky salt or chat masala or sumac. It’s fun to use in Indian or Middle Eastern dishes like saag paneer or hummus fattet, and I also love to bake with it. Any simple tea cake that calls for yogurt or sour cream. In early summer I always dream about making a Danish cold strawberry soup with skyr, and this time of year I love making a blueberry cake with skyr thinned with a bit of milk in place of buttermilk. There’s a “recipes” tab on my website that has a bunch of ideas I’ve collected for other tasty applications! 

Q, Anything else you’d like to share about your company or product?

A. Lots of exciting things to come! Among other things, I’ll be moving the base of operations to Barnard in December so that my goats and I can finally live with my husband Teo, whom I married in February. He’s a filmmaker and amateur herdsman and is responsible for 100% of the goat music videos we produce.

My goal is to scale out rather than up. I don’t want to grow my herd beyond my capacity to be really hands on with my animals, so I have had to get creative with how to capitalize on what I have. I’ve devised a product line that works to create a closed loop with little to no waste, where everything is used, and I’m able to achieve some measure of financial sustainability. So many dairy farmers get trapped in that go-big cycle because that’s the only way to make the numbers work. My hope is to try another way, but it’s too soon to know whether that will succeed. 

In addition to goat butter and whey soda, I am working to create a whey-based facial toner that can be used as a brightening exfoliant. That will likely be a few years down the road.

Local food nourishes us, supports our families, builds community, and benefits our environment.  Local Food Is Love. We are so fortunate in Vermont to have access to such a wide variety of foods made and grown by neighbors we know and trust. This is what Local Food Is Love is all about. Every summer we celebrate the local growers and producers who enhance our lives and communities in countless ways. Stay tuned for more stories about these amazing people and the unique and delicious foods they bring to our tables.

Why Eat Local?

We love this time of year! This month we kicked off “Local Food Is Love” at the Market, an annual celebration of the growing season in Vermont and the amazing products coming out of our neighbor’s farms and kitchens this time of year.

Between now and mid fall, it’s super easy to enjoy locally produced foods. Why eat local? It’s healthier for you, the environment, and our community.

Better nutrition, better taste

Locally grown food that is picked days, if not hours, before landing on your dinner table has higher nutritional value than produce that has to be trucked in from afar. The longer it takes produce to reach you, the fewer vitamins and minerals it has. And then there’s the taste. You just can’t compare the flavor of a fresh garden tomato, or any other veggie or piece of fruit for that matter, with one picked weeks or months ago.

Fewer chemicals

When you know your farmer, you know how your food is grown! Whenever possible, our local farmers use techniques and strategies that are sustainable and organic in nature, such as integrated pest management, crop rotation, cover-crop methods, green manure, the introduction of beneficial organisms, and nutrient and irrigation management. 

Environmentally responsible

The shorter trip from farm to table means less fuel consumption and therefore fewer carbon emissions. It’s as simple as that.

Good for our community and our local food system

When you buy local, you help support a strong local economy. Your dollars stay here, circulating between the businesses that make our community a great place to live and raise a family.

Plus, you’re helping our local farmers be good stewards of the earth. Responsible farming is expensive. That means that, yes, produce grown on small, family farms costs more than industrial farm products. But we think knowing where your food comes from (and who grows it) is worth every dollar. All of our farms are family-owned; some of them are multi-generational. They’re a vital part of our community, in so many ways.

Want to learn more? Here are a few stories we’ve compiled over the years about our local growers:

Edgewater Farm

Fresh Roots Farms

Four Corners Farm

Crossroad Farm

During this summer’s Local Food Is Love, we look forward to sharing more stories about our local producers and farmers. Stay tuned!

Four Jammy and Cheesy Burgers

Burgers are our go-to for easy summer meals and entertaining. But just because they’re simple to prepare doesn’t mean they can’t be fun and interesting. We joined up with Blake Hill to create four flavorful ways to elevate your burger.

We suggest trying a new one every week. Look for our recipe cards in the meat, cheese, and grocery departments.

Chipotle Maple Black Bean + Cabot Cheddar

Photo provided by Blake Hill Preserves

What you need:

  • Blake Hill’s Chipotle & Maple Spicy Chili Jam
  • Cabot’s Extra Sharp Cheddar Slices
  • Your favorite black bean burger

A little sweet, a bit spicy, and deliciously smoky, this bean-based burger brings all the flavor. Serve on a bun or let it sing over a bed of fresh garden greens.

Caramelized Onion + Garlic Peppercorn

Photo provided by Blake Hill Preserves

What you need:

  • Blake Hill’s Caramelized Onion Savory Jam
  • Plymouth’s Garlic Peppercorn Artisan Cheese
  • Locally grown beef from Black River Meats, Vermont Family Farms, or Boyden Family Farm

Bring all the flavor with a bold garlic and bright pepper cheese complimented by the smooth, creaminess of onions with a little zing of roasted garlic and Blake Hill’s special spice blend.

Classic Fig with Pear & Honey + Welsh Cheddar

Photo provided by Blake Hill Preserves

What you need:

  • Blake Hill’s Classic Fig with Pear & Honey Jam
  • Red Dragon Welsh-style Cheddar with Mustard and Ale
  • Locally grown beef from Black River Meats, Vermont Family Farms, or Boyden Family Farm

Creamy fig, pear and honey preserves are incredible paired with the buttery and whole-grain mustard of a traditional Welsh-cheddar. Top with a cabbage slaw for the perfect crunch.

Spiced Plum + Blue Cheese

Photo provided by Blake Hill Preserves

What you need:

  • Blake Hill’s Spiced Plum with Port
  • Blue Ledge Farm’s Middlebury Blue or Jasper Hill’s Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese
  • Locally grown beef from Black River Meats, Vermont Family Farms, or Boyden Family Farm

Grab a beer and enjoy the unique-yet-quintessential pairings of spices, rich plums, and the tart, distinct tone unmatched in the Bayley Hazen Blue.

A dollop of jam and a slice of artisan cheese is the secret to happy burgers!  Look for our “Elevate Your Burger” signs in our grocery and cheese departments for other ways to bring your burger to new heights.

Sisters of Anarchy Ice Cream: Women-Owned and Managed

Chaste Anne and Dirty Ann at Fisher Brothers Farm, home of Sisters of Anarchy Ice Cream

Ice cream season has arrived. And we’re excited to spotlight one of our newest local producers in the WFM freezer!

Sisters of Anarchy Ice Cream produces over two dozen flavors of ice cream and sorbet on their farm in Shelburne, Vermont, where they grow most of the flavor elements themselves.  Thank you to the two women at the helm—Founder Becky Castle and Chief Operations Manager Rachel Ciancola—for taking the time to share with us a little about their family-owned and operated business and what makes their ice cream unique.

Q. What are your roles at Sisters of Anarchy ice cream?

A. Becky’s role is external relations, events and outreach. Rachel makes the trains run on time.  She oversees all ice-cream production, fulfillment for both our wholesale partners and also our online orders, which are shipped nationwide (basically she is a total badass!) and pretty much every other special project we throw at her.  We are women-owned and -managed!

Q. How did you get started in the ice-cream business?

A. Becky: My husband and I started our farm with the intent of growing the flavor elements for our ice cream. We are huge ice-cream fans and have made a tremendous amount of hand-cranked ice cream in our day. Our cream comes from our dairy partner in the NE Kingdom and honey, our primary sweetener, comes from Champlain Valley Apiaries, which maintains 40-70 hives at our farm.

Rachel: I was working in a leadership role at Vermont Bicycle Tours managing their European tours. When COVID shut down bike touring, I came across the position at Sisters of Anarchy.  I loved the messaging and also love the challenges of being part of growing a business.

Q. This is obviously a family affair. What roles do your various family members play in the company?

A. From the beginning, Bob’s and my three daughters (a.k.a., the Sisters of Anarchy, now ages 17, 15 and 13, but ages 9, 5 and 7 when we started) have participated in every aspect of our farm—planting and weeding, helping produce the ice cream, serving ice cream at events, doing social media, helping with mail order, etc.  Bob heads up the farming team and also contributes a lot to the creative.  For example, he wrote and produced our theme song (our kids served as the talent…it is on our website, check it out!).  We also think that it is really important for our kids to see what it takes to run a farm and a business.  Although they have a love/hate relationship with it, they acknowledge that the experience is providing them with a unique opportunity to understand farming and business.

Bob and Becky’s three daughters who inspired Sisters of Anarchy Ice Cream

Q. What makes your product unique?

A. We use fresh (not cooked) berries and have developed a special process for safely doing so.  We also keep our flavors simple.  The Raspberry Beret tastes like raspberries.  The Cyrstal Blue Persuasion tastes like fresh blueberries.  You get the gist!!

Q. You make your ice-cream on-site at Fischer Brothers Farm. What other ingredients are sourced from the farm?

A. We grow nearly all of the flavor elements (except chocolate, coffee and vanilla).  We cultivate over 35,000 row feet of six types of berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, elderberries and aronia berries) and Marquette grapes.  In addition to ice cream, we also make a line of wellness syrups—elderberry and aronia berry—under the name Sisters of Anarchy SyrupWorks made 100 percent with items produced at the farm.

Q. You have some really unique ice-cream names. Who names your ice-creams?

A. We all contribute, but our general principle is that ice cream and the names should be fun. You’ll notice some names have a double meaning, which is intentional.  An adult should be able to get a chuckle out of the name while the name is still “safe” for a kid to order without understanding the inside joke.

A few of their fun flavors

Q. What’s your most popular flavor of ice-cream?

A. Tough question!  We make 22 flavors and are about to add another 5 sorbet flavors. The best sellers are Chocolate Anarchy, Crystal Blue Persuasion, I Want Candy with Chocolate, and Dirty Ann.

Q. Your most unusual flavor?

A. The Experience or Respect Your Elders. The Experience is an aronia berry base ice-cream with aronia berry brownie chunks blended in and Respect Your Elders is an elderberry ice-cream.

Q. What’s your personal favorite?

A. Becky: Crystal Blue Persuasion (blueberries blended in vanilla ice cream)

Rachel: Nine to Five (coffee ice cream)

Week One of Grillin’ and Chillin’

During the month of June, we’re celebrating firing up the grill and local beers! Keep an eye to our Facebook page and blog for weekend specials: 15% off featured meats and local brews every Friday to Sunday, from now through July 4!

This weekend’s Grillin’ and Chillin’ specials are:

Vermont Beer Makers—These guys have been around for a long time (since 1996). Formerly Trout River Brewing, they’re one of the original leaders of the craft beer movement in Vermont. We think you’ll find something to love in their lineup of craft brews, from their session pilsner to their double IPA.

Black River Meats burger patties (in Woodstock) and Boyden Farms ground beef (in Waterbury)—It’s going to be a hot weekend ahead! Who wants to heat up the kitchen when you can fire up the grill? We’ve got locally grown beef from Black River Meats and Boyden Farms on sale through Sunday!

Here are Steve and Kyle with the scoop:

Elle’s Love Affair with Woodcock Farm Cheeses

 

Heading south on Vermont’s Route 100, just before you reach the village of Weston, you’ll spot a long drive on your left that cuts through an open meadow and disappears around a clump of trees. The road is marked by a small, unassuming sign for Woodcock Farm. You’d never guess this out-of-the-way family farm is home to some of Vermont’s most decadent cheeses.

Mark and Gari Fischer, who own and operate the 45-acre farm with their daughter Sam, have been making cheese for over 15 years. They make their hand-crafted, European-style cheeses in small batches using milk from their herd of East Friesian dairy sheep and local organic Jersey cows. They attribute the rich, buttery flavor of their cheeses to their sheep’s diet of lush, green grass.

 

Elle, our cheese leader at the Market, has fallen in love with Woodcock Farm cheeses. We asked her to share a few of her favorites, and here are her top three picks:

Jersey Girl: I love recommending Jersey Girl to customers. It’s a local tomme-style cheese which I find to be consistently high quality. It has a surprisingly buttery flavor, which I find to be a crowd-pleaser.

Summer Snow: Summer Snow is recently back for the season! It seems as though I’m cutting some every day because it’s so popular. Between the sheep’s milk, bloomy rind, and the silky interior, it’s a sweet yet tangy summer delight.

Timberdoodle: I sometimes joke that I’m currently having a love affair with Timberdoodle. Any time a customer asks for suggestions for their cheeseboard, I mention this local Taleggio-style cheese. With a sticky exterior, it has an initially funky aroma, but the soft interior tastes so velvety and buttery. I can’t get enough of it!

Woodcock Farm cheeses are 10% off through Sunday, May 30. Give them a try! We think it’ll be love at first bite!

 

The Not-So-Lazy Owner of Lazy Lady Farm

As part of our American Cheese Month celebration, we asked Laini Fondiller, owner and partner of Lazy Lady Farm in Westfield, Vermont, to tell us the story of her farm and how she got involved in cheesemaking. It was a simple question. But Laini’s cheese story is anything but simple.

We already loved her cheeses. Lazy Lady Farm makes, hands down, some of the most delectable cheeses in Vermont. But now we appreciate the fruits of her labor even more. Because labor-intensive it has been.

Thank you, Laini, for staying the course and sharing your delicious cheeses—and incredible story—with us.

Q. Can you tell us the history of your farm and how and when you first got involved in cheese?
A. OMG. It was started in 1987 with very little money. No electricity. No phone. No running water. One tiny shed. One tiny, tiny house. I started with one acre of vegetables, three sheep, and one goat. I had worked on dairies around Vermont for 10 years. Then I left and went traveling around the world by myself. No money. No real plans. I ended up in France and stayed there illegally for three years. This is where I discovered goat cheese and raising sheep.

In 1986, I met Jack Lazor while working on a farm in Randolph, Vt. He offered me a job on his farm that was making yogurt with 10 cows. This was my springboard into the world of maybe being able to do value added and processing. But I had no money and not really a clue as to how to do this.

I met Jack’s neighbor, who owned the land where Lazy Lady Farm is now located. We partnered up. He wanted nothing to do with the running of the farm but was a big help with projects. I worked here on the farm by myself for 15 years. Barry built a barn with wood from the land here. I got up to 30 sheep to help finance the farm through meat and wool (which I turned into rugs and felted items). I slowly added goats and made cheese in the kitchen. Still no electricity. Did get a phone. No running water.

In 1995 the state made me stop making and selling cheese that I was making in my kitchen. They allowed me to build a 10-by-16 room for making cheese, and I was able to use a handmade 5-gallon pasteurizer. $5,000 total. Got some solar panels. Heated water with a 1800’s laundry stove and a solar water heater. Found a better spring for bringing water into the house.

I was milking 12 goats at this time by hand. Barry made my first cheese cave. I got up to 20 goats. Someone who moved here from California built a house next to ours. I offered her a job for $100 a week. I got more panels and was able to begin to milk goats with a machine! During all of this, I had two carpal tunnel operations.

In 2001, I got rid of the sheep and switched to just goats and making cheese.

In 2003, I was able to get a loan from the Vermont Community Loan Fund and was then able to build a small cheese plant.

More solar panels. A well for running water. I was now milking 35 goats. A little more hired help.

In 2004, Barry started working here full time. We were processing 240 gallons per week in a 35-gallon pasteurizer.

In 2006, I started milking 40 goats, sold the pasteurizer, and bought a 50-gallon pasteurizer.

In 2007, I built second cave, etc. etc. etc.

Today our farm is 40 goats. We process 300 gallons of milk per week. I make cows’ milk cheeses in the winter, purchasing milk from friends who have 30 cows. I have two full-time ladies who help here in the cheese room and in the barn.

Turning 69 soon. Still working 7 days a week. 12-14 hour days.

Q. Who names your cheeses?
A. I make up all the recipes. I think of an idea for a cheese and come up with a name from the news cycle. I make cheese with the natural environment in the cheese room and in the geo-thermal cave, so my cheeses are subject to the weather around them.

La Petite Tommes

Q. What’s the most important part of the cheesemaking process?
A. The milk. It changes. The weather changes……so I gotta be on my toes.

Q. Anything new or exciting coming up at the farm?
A. Always something. Stay tuned.

Q. What is your desert island cheese?
A. La Petite Tommes

Laini and her farm were featured this spring in WCAX’s “Made in Vermont” series. You can watch it here: MiVT: Lazy Lady Farm Cheese (wcax.com).

The Cows Are Out at Spring Brook Farm

During the month of May, in celebration of American Cheese Month, we’re spotlighting some of our local cheesemakers. These small producers keep our cheese case well-stocked with their unique, handcrafted cheeses. Each one has a unique story, and a true passion for the craft of cheesemaking. 

We are so appreciative to Jeremy Stephenson, expert cheesemaker at Spring Brook Farm, for taking a few minutes to fill us in on how things are going at the farm. 

Q. Can you tell us your name and your role at Spring Brook Farm?
A. My name is Jeremy Stephenson and I am a cheesemaker and have been responsible for the cheese operations overall for about 14 years….since we started making cheese.

Q. What can you tell us about the history of the farm?
A. Spring Brook Farm is owned by the Farms For City Kids Foundation which operated an educational program each year bringing 500-600 fifth and sixth graders for a week-long stay each year. https://farmsforcitykids.org/

Q. How and when did Spring Brook Farm first get involved in cheese?
A. We started making Tarentaise cheese in 2008 in collaboration with Thistle Hill Farm. Over time we started making Raclette (Reading) and Morbier (Ashbrook) styles.

Q. What makes your product unique or special?
A. Our cheeses are inspired and informed by traditional French alpine cheesemaking methods. The milk supplied for the cheese comes from herds which are put out on pasture and fed a non-fermented diet of dry hay and grain through the winter months.

Q. Who is your head cheesemaker and where did that person learn their craft?
A. We have just hired a new lead cheesemaker named Emily Buckley who previously was the lead cheesemaker at Landaff Creamery until they closed their doors at the time the owners retired. We are very excited to have Emily on board to carry our history of high-quality cheesemaking forward.

Q. What are the most important things to you in the cheesemaking process
A. High quality milk is critical, followed closely by consistency in following your chosen process for reaching your flavor and texture target. Cleanliness and food safety are very important also. Really, good cheesemaking is the result of many, many things done properly and repeatedly rather than any one ‘most important thing.’

Q. How has the Covid-19 crisis impacted your business?
A. Covid slowed our sales down tremendously and resulted in a great loss of sales. However, things are looking up as we go into 2021.

Q. Anything new or exciting coming up at the farm?
A. Yes, the cows are about to go out on pasture!! Always a great time.

Q. Do you have a desert island cheese?
A. Not really. I like to mix it up. Any good, well-made cheese is welcome at my table.

Q. Anything else you’d like to add?
A. Yes, just a call out to all the great shops like the Woodstock Farmers’ Market who are so critical to the survival of small dairies and cheesemakers! Thank you!

Haven’t had a chance to try Spring Brook Farm cheese, or are you already a convert? Through Sunday, May 16th, all Spring Brook Farm cheeses are 10% off!