It’s been a few days since I returned from Vermont and the Stonyfield Farm Tour. I’m still trying to find the right words to describe how amazing the weekend was. It made me appreciate farmers so much more. And it made me love Stonyfield even more – which I didn’t think was evenly remotely possible.
Rather than gush about my love, it’s better if I dive right into what we did. Grab some coffee and a snack (perhaps a cup of yogurt?), this is going to be a long one!
Friday morning, I met Jessica outside of Concord to caravan to Stowe, Vermont. It was a quick ride but we both wanted to shake our legs out a bit after sitting in the car for 3 hours (or more for Jessica). Our hotel, the Stoweflake, was conveniently located on the rec path that goes all through town. FYI – the beds are awesome at the hotel!
I’m so not used to mid-day runs. It was HOT. If I had not been hangry, I would have happily sat in the river for a bit to cool off.
After eating and showering, it was time to meet the rest of the farm tour crew. In addition to Mairead and Liza from Stonyfield, the farm tour crew included 13 awesome food, family, travel and healthy living bloggers from all around the country.
Our first stop was for a Community Farm Dinner at Kimball Brook Farm. Cheryl and her family hold summer supper parties that feature farm fresh food, live music and family fun.
If you’ve ever been to a church picnic, it totally reminded me of that (except there was no church part). Down home fun with good food and good music. It immediately made me want to find something similar back home. Everything was made to order and fresh from the gardens. I couldn’t stop raving about the tomatoes. Garden tomatoes are one of the best things about summer!
After dinner, we walked around the barns to catch a glimpse of some of the cows heading out to the pasture after being milked.
On the ride back to the hotel, of course we had to stop at the Ben and Jerry’s Factory for ice cream. I was too busy inhaling my Salted Caramel Blondie to take a pic. #priorities
Early the next morning, we hoped back on the bus and headed way north (almost to Canada) for the first farm – Green Wind Farm. It was the quintessential Vermont farm. For the girls who had never been to New England, it was pure eye candy. High up on a hill, Vermont greenery was everywhere the eye could see.
Britt and Kyle – two of Stonyfield’s farm experts – also joined us to give us the run down of everything organic and farming related.
Our first stop was in the barn to see the newest member of the herd. An adorable 2 day old calf that wasn’t too sure what to make of all the crazy bloggers taking pictures of her.
Green Wind Farm is in transitional stage from conventional to organic farming with the help of Stonyfield. The plan is also for Julie to transition the farm over to her son and his family.
For the farmer’s who provide milk for Stonyfield, they have access 24 hours a day to resources and education. Stonyfield isn’t just buying their milk, they are continuing to educate and support their farmers. This is not the normal thing that most companies do. It’s Stonyfield’s way of ensuring their providers are following the high standards of being a USDA certified organic farm.
For a dairy farm to become USDA certified organic, the farm has to transition for a full year. Other requirements include the cows have to be at pasture for 120 days of the year. When it gets too cold, or there is snow on the ground, the cows eat alfalfa & hay (pasture that has been cut and stored). They also get an organic barley, oats, and grain blend. No pesticides or GMO’s are ever allowed!
After our tour, we were then treated to a very, very special treat. Julie’s daughter, daughter-in-law and son made us breakfast! The spread was unbelievable.
Everything was homemade – Blueberry pancakes, French toast, fresh blueberries, applesauce, yogurt (Stonyfield and their own homemade version), Tempeh and an egg scramble with fresh from the garden Swiss chard.
Everything was sooooo good! So gracious. I couldn’t thank them enough for their generosity. I could have spent all day at Green Wind.
FYI – Julie’s son, Seth, has an awesome business, Pumpkin Village Foods, that sells the farm’s maple syrup and other Vermont goods to select Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan businesses. Check it out!
Our next stop was for more food!
The pie was awesome but hearing Gary talk about GMO-labeling and organic, inspired me. It’s clear he has a deep passion for the cause. As parents, consumers and bloggers, it is our duty to vote with our money. That’s how we are going to get companies to change their products. Buying organic shows the food industry that you care about how your food is grown and made. Every organic purchase is a vote with your dollars and can influence the choices businesses make.
Yes, buying organic is expensive. I wish I could afford to buy everything organic but it’s not in our family budget. Instead, I buy organic dairy (always) and try to stick with the fruits and veggies on the dirty dozen list. I also try to buy organic or grass fed meat as much as possible. The point is – do what you can, buy organic what you can afford.
Every dollar makes a difference in the fight against the big corporations that could care less about what your family is eating.
We said good bye to Gary and headed to our last farm – Churchill Farm in Cabot, Vt.
The Churchill Family – Jen, Morgan and their adorable kids, Sam and Nora – operate a larger farm that is embracing new technology. They use a robot to milk their cows!
I learned that cows want to be milked. It makes sense. If you’ve breast fed your kids, you know what I mean. At Churchill Farm, it was so cool to see the cows line up to get into the milking room. One by one, the cows enter into the milking room where they get a snack and the robot goes to work. It washes the udders and lines up the pumps to match it perfectly up to the udders. It takes minutes for each cow to be milked. Pretty cool stuff!
With the new technology, it frees up some time but working a dairy farm isn’t a 9-5 job. Most days run from 4 a.m. – 9 p.m. There’s always something to do.
The one thing I loved hearing from Morgan was that their cows were healthier and happier now that they were organic. And they produce more milk. The cows don’t get sick as often as conventional cows. Cows are like humans in that if you eat a poor diet, don’t get enough sleep and exercise – you get sick.
When you ask farmers why they converted to organic they all told us it was for the money initially. Organic dairy is sold at a much more consistent higher price – usually double or more – than conventional dairy. But after seeing how well the cows did on organic, they knew it was the best thing for them and their families.
We said good bye to the Churchill’s and had a very interesting ride back to the Stoweflake. Let’s just say most buses aren’t meant to be on Class 4 back roads. Unless you have an awesome bus driver named Richard.
After some down time, it was time for a farewell dinner at Michael’s on the Hill. The food was amazing. I’m no food blogger but damn – that was some of the best food I’ve ever had. If you are ever in Waterbury, you must go there. I want to go back asap!
And could someone recreate this Strawberry Rhubarb Pistachio Crisp with Grand Marnier Ice Cream recipe for me? To. die. for.
Can you see why my heart, belly and head are full right now?
I’ve learned so much and have a yearning to learn much, much more. I owe a HUGE thank you to Stonyfield for giving me the opportunity to join the tour. I met some fantastic ladies and have new blogs to follow. And most importantly, I learned that small operation farming is still a possibility. I’m so thankful to those who farm. It’s not a glamorous job but it’s a job that needs to be done.
If you ate today, thank a farmer.
I was chosen to participate in the Stonyfield Farm Tour as a Stonyfield YoGetter. My travel and lodging were compensated. All opinions in this post are my own.
Have you ever toured a farm before?
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