Viewing entries tagged with ‘farms’

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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2 May, 2014 - by Amy Beston, Cedar Circle Farm

Cycles and Seasons

This article was originally posted on the Cedar Circle Farm blog.  Their farmstand is now open.  As the seasons change it's refreshing to read this post about cycles, seasons, and working on the farm.  If you want to get onto the farm, check out Cedar Cirlce and these other farms visits.

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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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11 October, 2013 - by Helen Labun Jordan

Apple Harvest

This weekend, Vermont is full of Harvest Festivals . . . and most of them celebrate apples. Apples are, after all, Vermont’s state fruit (named in 1999) and the apple pie is our state pie. We have about 4,000 acres in apple production. Plus, the apple diversity you can find in our state is increasing every year - as we bring back old varieties and products that had fallen out of fashion over the generations, and invent new ones.

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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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26 March, 2013 - by Lauren Griswold, Green Mountain Girls Farm

There’s A Richness in Them There Hills!

Yesterday, we had a Dig In Vermont intern at the farm.  She is interviewing a few of us Floating Bridge Food and Farms Co-op members for a short video to be featured on the Dig In site.  One of her interview questions was a simple one, but sometimes those are the best, right?  "What do you like best about living and working in Vermont?"  I hardly had to think about it.  Of course, I mentioned the natural beauty that we get to steep in everyday–the mountainscapes free of distracting billboards, the working pastures and forests rolling all about–but what I really wanted to speak to was the community we have here, and how extensively engaged and supportive it can be, without seeming cheeky or contrived.

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13 February, 2013 - by Sile Post, Walden North Farm

Winter Growing: Vermont’s “Invincible Summer”

Snow squalls swirl round the windows, while shrill winds shake the barn cupola from where I write here on Walden North Farm in Vermont. Much of New England this weekend is wrapped in blizzards of snow “whirling wild without” (to borrow Thoreau’s words). The endless landscapes of white that weather experts are calling “epic,” is for us Vermonters, —simply another winter’s day. 

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