In her book The Dirty Life, Kristin Kimball (2010) writes of finding herself through farming and family. Her transition from city girl to farmer girl is drastic and one that cannot be complete without several realizations. At one point, she describes the whole diet, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) she and her then fiancée were trying to establish as follows:
“We were pitching a radical all-or-nothing, year-round membership model that was untried… [members] would have to give up…that familiar and comforting experience of pushing a cart down an aisle. The central question in the kitchen would have to change from What do I want? to What is available?…Maybe most important, farm food itself is totally different from what most people now think of as food: none of those colorful boxed and bagged products, precut, parboiled, ready to eat and engineered to appeal to our basest desires. We were selling the opposite: naked, unprocessed food, two steps from the dirt.”
We had worked on our own food buying and eating experiences over the years, trying to improve our health and our own impact on the planet to make ethical and sustainable food choices. We tried to avoid GMO’s, bought as much organic as we thought we could afford and made choices about what to buy directly from a farmer, particularly meats. But our time spent in Vermont and the people we met there helped us take this to the next level. We had an opportunity to get to know some wonderful people a lot better and meet some others we had never known before. We learned so much about farming and food production. The food culture is such that it is easier to buy from the farmer down the road from you than to go to the grocery store for many items. It is just what people do there, and, after some adjustment, that is just what we did.
We spent most of our time there learning about and helping out when we could at the Smokey House Center, a sustainable agriculture center also offering a youth tutorial program . Our friend Jesse is the director there and he and his family were very gracious and so fun to be neighbors with. Day in and out, the kids played outside nonstop and willingly participated in homeschool sessions in the shadow of Danby Mountain. We explored as many swimming holes as we could – natural slides, waterfalls, quarries. We walked the quiet farm roads to the creek and hiked the mountain and worked in the garden. We did what we could to show our appreciation to Jesse and Laura – many thanks to them for hosting us!
The Smokey House Center is the largest property owner in the Danby area, aside from the Green Mountain National Forest. The 5,000 acres the Center manages is home to three different farms, Two Dog Farm, Yoder Farm and Dorset Peak Jerseys. The farm stand there offers grass-fed organic beef, some pork, maple syrup, fresh, organic vegetables, dried beans and popping corn, applesauce and cider and raw milk. It was lovely biking or walking to the farm stand to pick up the ingredients for dinner. The views couldn’t be beat or the road less travelled. If we didn’t find what we needed at the farm stand, it could certainly be found at either the Dorset or Rutland farmer’s markets.
The Yoder’s, another member of Smokey House Center, welcomed us and the kids on their farm and let us help with apple harvests, cider making, harvesting and threshing their many varieties of dried beans and raspberry picking (my favorite part!). Rachel and Ryan are wonderfully welcoming people with a random connection back to our old stomping grounds in Morgantown, WV; Ryan’s uncle ran the pick-your-own strawberry farm, Owl Creek Farms. Small world. We enjoy eating the Yoder’s dried beans and the best popcorn ever, a variety called Dakota Black, remembering the family who grew our food and the good times that we had with them.
We also had the opportunity to work some with Laughing Child Farms, an organic sweet potato grower in the Mettowee River Valley. Our daughter hit if off with their daughter and, while we didn’t see them nearly as much as we would have liked, we thoroughly enjoyed the company of the entire family and always had a good time when we did see them. They were recently featured in Cook’s Country magazine.
Small business is the name of the game in Vermont and another family we met makes granola that is sold at local grocery stores, farmer’s markets and online. Check out Beth’s Vermont Maple Granola Company, made with all organic ingredients.
Finally, Willa enjoyed riding lessons at Chipman Stables. The Chipman’s are a rodeo family with wonderful horsemanship and engaging staff as well as a beautiful facility and good horses. I would recommend them to anyone looking for trail rides, lessons, boarding or training in the Danby/Dorset areas of Vermont.
Our challenge is to continue to eat local food that is grown responsibly, with the health of ourselves and our planet in mind. Easier said than done when we are on the move, but we will do our best! As Laura said when we left, “Good where we’ve been, good where we’re going!”