Viewing entries tagged with ‘Shelburne Farms’

27 February, 2015 - by Vera Chang, Shelburne Farms

Ready, Set, Chop! Jr Iron Chef is Coming!

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Ready, set, chop! On Saturday, March 21, 65 middle and high school teams will compete in the state’s eighth annual Junior Iron Chef VT. This local foods cooking challenge empowers youth to connect with where food comes from, healthy eating, and from-scratch cooking. Since its founding, the competition has more than doubled the number of participants with teams coming from every corner of the state. 
This year’s Jr Iron Chef VT is particularly timely. Since last year’s competition, First Lady Michelle Obama and the White House administration began conversations about how to introduce basic culinary skills in schools as a way to promote healthier eating. Yesterday, U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) introduced the bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2015 to increase federal resources committed to bringing fresh, local foods to schools nationwide. 
One of the first youth culinary competitions to focus on local food and school meals, Jr Iron Chef VT is one example of the state’s groundbreaking farm to school efforts. Vermont has some of the longest-standing programs in the country. Today, eighty-nine percent of Vermont schools are involved with farm to school programming thanks to state policymakers, food service professionals, and nonprofit organizations, including the founders of Jr Iron Chef VT: Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED, a partnership of NOFA-VT and Shelburne Farms) and the Burlington School Food Project.
The impact of Jr Iron Chef VT is broad and can last beyond graduation for many participants. Maraika Lumholdt, a South Burlington High School and Jr Iron Chef VT alumna is serving as a judge this year. “I know from personal experience that the process of competing is a real challenge, but it pays off,” Maraika said. “Jr Iron Chef VT inspired me to think about food in a new way – where food comes from to its preparation. While creating recipes, my teammates and I learned about the connection between farms, nutrition, and taste and how to cook well while working together.”  
Guided by coaches – local chefs, food service directors, and teachers – student teams create original recipes that incorporate local foods. Students work through real-life challenges similar to those food service face to create healthy, nutritious school lunches, including sourcing ingredients themselves. Teams have just 90 minutes to prepare their kid-tested, seasonal fare. Jr Iron Chef VT winning teams will have the opportunity to prepare their recipes for legislators in the Vermont Statehouse, and their dishes will also be featured on school lunch menus around the state.
A selection of the dishes on this year’s Jr Iron Chef VT menu: Vermont Root Vegetable Empanada with Maple Adobe Sauce; Ricotta Gnocchi with Butternut Basil Sauce in Kale Spinach Nest; and Sensational, Satisfying, Seasonal Soup. 
Some of the 20 Jr Iron Chef VT judges working under the guidance of Chef Jim Birmingham of the New England Culinary Institute include: Lake Champlain Chocolates Research and Development Specialist Lauren Deitsch, Hotel Vermont Executive Chef Doug Paine, and Twin Valley alum and Hermitage Club Chef Joel Gonzalez.
The 8th Annual Jr Iron Chef VT will take place Saturday, March 21 from 9:00am to 3:30pm at the Champlain Valley Expo Center in Essex Junction, VT. Cost for attendance is $3 for an individual, $5 for a family. Jr Iron Chef VT is sponsored by several local and state entities including Northfield Savings Bank; Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets; and Blodgett. Its media sponsor is WCAX. For more information, please visit

Ready, set, chop! On Saturday, March 21, 65 middle and high school teams will compete in the state’s eighth annual Junior Iron Chef VT. This local foods cooking challenge empowers youth to connect with where food comes from, healthy eating, and from-scratch cooking. Since its founding, the competition has more than doubled the number of participants with teams coming from every corner of the state. 

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9 February, 2015 - by Corey Burdick

Maple Conversion

Vermont is my adopted home. I have lived here full time for 12 years, but spent my childhood in upstate New York. I’ll admit I’ve been slow to accept real maple syrup into my culinary repertoire. My reluctance to embrace the culture and tradition of soaking one’s pancakes in true, local maple syrup can only be attributed to the breakfast tables of my youth; crowded with Aunt Jemima and Country Crock. Food memories can be powerful and often determine how one crafts meals and diets for a lifetime. But, sometimes patterns are meant to be broken, so in that spirit, last March I took a trip to one of my favorite natural areas: Shelburne Farms.

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13 June, 2014 - by Alyson Barrie and Jonathan Connor, University of Vermont

Meet Kate Turcotte, Head Cheesemaker at Shelburne Farms


The Big Cheese
In 2007, while attending UVM, Kate Turcotte began working as a milk hauler at Shelburne Farms, a nonprofit educational farm located near the shores of Lake Champlain in Shelburne, VT. She continued on with an internship during which she learned the cheese making process. After a year at Consider Bardwell farm in West Pawlet, VT, she returned to Shelburne Farms as head cheesemaker. In a state with more cheesemakers per capita than any other, Shelburne Farms stands out as a leader because they are an educational facility. Every day people visit from all over the world to watch them make cheese and to learn about farming and food production.
How It Began
A herd of Brown Swiss cows joined the farm in the 1950s and the farmers at Shelburne Farms began to bottle and sell raw milk. Years later, the dairy realized the potential in making a value-added product out of their raw milk. This is when the production of artisan, Vermont Farmhouse Cheddar began at the farm and, as Kate puts it, “Back in the 80s, artisan cheese was this really wild thing.” As wild as the idea may have been at the time, Shelburne Farms now produces over 185,000 pounds of cheese a year.
Farmhouse Cheddar
So what is so unique about Shelburne Farms cheddar? The entire production process takes place on the farm. “If you tried to make this cheese anywhere else, you couldn’t because it’s made from this soil, with this grass, and these cows,” said Kate, “so I think that makes our product really unique.” Milking is done twice a day, morning and night, on the farm. That raw milk is then hauled directly from the dairy to the cheese making facility where it is made into cheese by hand in relatively small batches. Forty-pound blocks of cheddar are sealed, boxed, and placed in coolers at the farm to age from 6 months to 3 years. A small portion of the cheddar is cloth bound and brought to age in cellars at Jasper Hill. However, cave aging is very labor intensive, so the cheesemakers prefer to spend most of their time on making good cheese in the vat. In fact, their Farmhouse Cheddar is not just good cheese; it is excellent cheese that has been winning awards from the American Cheese Society for over two decades.
The Culture of Vermont Cheese
According to Kate, the success of Vermont’s cheese making can be attributed to the collaboration among cheesemakers. “The reason why Vermont cheese is so successful is because there’s so much collaboration going on,” says Kate. “Cheesemakers have such a great open-door policy. It’s like, if you’re a cheesemaker, then come in, see what I do, see my operations.”
Cheesemakers in Vermont are also no strangers to innovation. They are constantly trying to come up with new ways to make consistent, high-quality cheese, while still having it be hand made with raw milk. “It’s an old world tradition with new world technologies,” says Kate, “us evolving happens every single day.”
Shelburne Farms cheese will be featured at the Taste of Vermont Reception at the end of the UVM Food Systems Summit on Wednesday, June 18.
Alyson Barrie and Jonathan Connor wrote this piece for an internship during the spring 2014 semester at UVM.
Photo credits: Kate, Cows, and Cheesemaking by Vera Chang. Clothbound Cheddar by Blake Gardener. All photos courtesy Shelburne Farms and used with permission.

This piece was originally posted on the University of Vermont's Food Feed blog.  With the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival coming up, it was great to get an inside look at the people behind the cheese at Shelburne Farms.  Vermont is a delicious place to call home...not least because of great cheesemakers like Kate!

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9 April, 2014 - by Kira Schmiedl, Shelburne Farms

Warm Days and Cold Nights Yield Sweet Rewards

I’ve always had a sweet tooth. As a kid growing up in suburban Boston, drowning my pancakes in maple syrup, I had only a vague understanding that this gold, liquid sugar came from trees. As I became more interested in the origins of food and moved to Vermont, I discovered the taste of pure maple syrup and all it takes to produce it.
The sunny days, cold nights, and delicate, earthy scent from the sugarbush mark my favorite time of year at Shelburne Farms: sugaring season. Usually lasting 4-6 weeks from late February through early April, it’s a sweet sign that the long winter is fading (really!) and spring is finally on its way. 
Sugaring is an important part of our working landscape and education programs here at the Farm. It helps us maintain a sustainable and healthy forest, provides food for our farm to table endeavors, and engages people of every age – especially teachers and their students – in a process of learning where food comes from. Sugaring connects all of us to the land, our community, and the local economy. 
While steeped in tradition, the maple sugaring world is not lacking in innovation. If you visit our sugarbush this year, you may notice some of these exciting changes. As part of our ongoing effort to reduce energy consumption across the Farm, we’re experimenting with reverse osmosis as a way to boost production and lower energy consumption in sugaring. 
The reverse osmosis machine cuts down on boiling time by removing excess water and concentrating the sugar in the sap, generally bringing sap from 2% to 8% sugar content. (The higher the sugar content, the less sap you need to boil to make syrup!) Last year we used 8.3 cords of wood to produce 100 gallons of maple syrup; this year we expect to use just 2-5 cords to produce 100 gallons. This is exciting news, especially for Marshall Webb and Dana Bishop, who steward our green certified woodlands, harvest sustainably produced lumber for craftspeople like our on-site partner Beeken Parsons, and supply firewood for the Farm.

Reverse osmosis machines, along with the vacuum and line collection system we have used since 2011, are now commonplace to many Vermont sugarbushes and sugar houses. I have read estimates that up to 90% of maple syrup on the market has undergone reverse osmosis. 
This new technology allows us to represent Vermont industries in our educational programs, including school field trips. But it poses challenges, too. Educator Christie Nold explains, “Often, as technology increases, the distance between people and food products increases as well. We want to celebrate these technological advances while still exposing students to a more ‘traditional’ sugaring method. This shows them not just how product is made, but also where it comes from.”
Our educators believe that the most impactful activity to learn about sugaring is for students to see firsthand the sap running from a maple tree and collecting in a bucket. So along with the 2.5 miles of tubing that connect 650+ taps throughout our sugarbush, we use about 50 traditional metal buckets to collect sap.

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The historic barns, hillsides dotted with cows, and steaming sugar houses of Vermont’s working landscape have been iconic images of the state for many years. Increasingly, visitors want to do more than drive by these pastoral images. They want to roll up their sleeves, milk a cow, dig potatoes, and learn more about the food system with all five senses.

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