I just came back from 2 amazing days in Northern Vermont.
You see, I was hired to be a chauffeur to an evil capitalist management consultant who was going to a small Vermont town - with or without me - to convince a nice small-town Vermont construction company owner to diversify and morph into a greedy corporate multi-business owner. Since the evil capitalist was going to Vermont regardless of my driving her or not, I figured that I may as well take the opportunity to roam around some small towns in Vermont looking for cheese and milk and every other sort of sustainable goodie.
After dropping off the evil capitalist at the nice small-town Vermont construction company, I decided to visit Walter Jeffries over at Sugar Mountain Farm. I had emailed Walter as soon as I knew I'd be going to Vermont and he invited me to come have a look around. I've been reading Walter's blog on a regular basis for about a year now, and it was really exciting to actually have the words and photos from his blog come to life before my very eyes. I pulled up to the farm and took a quick photo of the farms' NONAIS mailbox before I was called to attention by the sound, and then sight, of who I think was Kita and one of the other Sugar Mountain dogs barking like they wanted to tear me to shreds and then eat me alive.
I remembered Walter's various posts about his dogs and was super-excited to see, hear, and fear them in the flesh! I hoped Walter wasn't lying when he wrote that they were well-trained and would back down once they knew I was friendly. I was so excited (or perhaps scared) that I dropped my camera onto the passenger seat and cautiously approached the gate to find out if I would be let inside or become dog food. Walter came out of the house and as soon as he opened the gate the dogs knew I was "okay" and immediately stopped barking. I shook Walter's hand and then said hello to the dogs, who happily licked my hands and jumped up to paint some big muddy paw marks on my pants. What's a little mud?
Walter gave me fantastic tour of his farm and taught me a lot about sustainable country life, pigs, and dogs. He showed me the cabin him and his family are building, which they hope to be living in before winter sets in. As I was leaving, Walter ran inside his 18th century home - which he plans to sell - and grabbed ham steak from his freezer as a parting gift for a fellow Ethicurean. I knew I'd be running into some food on this trip and I brought along a cooler especially for this type of occasion. Because I didn't have my camera with me I didn't take any pictures of the farm, but I urge you to check out Walter's blog and look at the photos of his farm, pigs, family, dogs, and anything else he takes a picture of.
My next stop was Barre, Vermont, where Walter and his wife Holly had told me about a co-op there called L.A.C.E., otherwise known as Local Agricultural Community Exchange. This is a place that promotes and supports local agricultural businesses through product placement, farmers markets, and educational outreach programs. Unfortunately, L.A.C.E. was closed on Mondays. Next time . . .
After a nice snack of local fruits and veggies bought at one of the many farm stands that are scattered throughout the small towns of Vermont, I drove around aimlessly, killing time, until I suddenly pulled up at Cabot Creamery. Although they are not organic, Cabot Creamery operates as a cooperative, so the cheese factory is owned by the small dairy farms that supply the milk, and they seem to be doing things in a resonably sustainable way. I'd have to do more research to know for sure, but they seem to be operating way better than any factory-farm cheesemaker I've ever heard of. I watched how they make the cheese and then I sampled some in their store. I walked away with a 3-pound block of "seriously sharp" cheddar for about US$10 - which is a very, very good deal.
The day was just about done and it was time to pick up the evil capitalist management consultant and take her to the hotel, where she would plan her second wave attack on the nice small-town Vermont construction company owner. I flipped thorugh the binder of restaurants in the hotel lobby and found one that focused on local food. After some convincing, the evil capitalist management consultant agreed and we were on our way towards Lyndonville, Vermont, to eat at Juniper's at the Wildflower Inn. As we were driving on the dirt road that led to the Inn, I saw some pretty funky looking cows that needed to be photographed to be believed. I didn't stop as I didn't think the evil capitalist management consultant would understand me stopping all the time to take pictures of cows, farms, signs, etc. I made a mental note that I would snap a phto on the way back to the hotel, when the capitalist would be drowsy with food.
We were almost turned away from Juniper's when we walked in without a reservation - it seems the Inn and the restaurant are pretty popular, even on a Monday night. Luckily, I had brought my own personal evil capitalist management consultant, who used her powers of persuasion and management skills to convince and then rearrange the hostesses' entire table plan and schedule to accommodate the two of us. The menu at Juniper's was impressive, listing all the farms where they get each type of meat that they serve. It tuned out that I would get a better souvenir of those funky cows thanI had hoped for because all the burgers at Juniper's are made with beef from those funky cows! The farm is called Meadow View Farm and the cows are Belted Galloway cows, also called "belties".
My "kingdom burger" was delicious. It was perfectly grilled and accessorized with cheddar cheese from Cabot Creamery and Vermont maple-cured bacon. The evil one had French onion soup and shepherd's pie and was not disappointed. I will definitely return to Juniper's if I am ever back in this neck of the woods. I will also email them and recommend they buy their pork from Sugar Mountain Farm, because right now they get it from West Virginia.
Stay tuned for Vermont Diary - Part II . . .