Eat & Drink, Go Explore, Stay Local

Digging In: Open Farm Week 2017

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It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows us…we have an affinity for local produce. Why wouldn’t we? Vermont is now bursting with agricultural vibrance and energy. More and more people are congregating to Vermont, contributing to the resurgence and appreciation for organic, intentional farming. Younger folks are migrating (or returning) to the Green Mountain State to initiate their own agricultural vision, and this is certainly something to celebrate! We encourage you all to hug our farmers this week (in one sense or another)! Participate in this year’s Vermont Open Farm Week! From now through Sunday, you can meet the farmers, fields, and animals that contribute to Vermont’s spirited farming heritage.

There are many events scheduled to celebrate Open Farm Week, all of which can be found here. From kid-friendly events to culinary treats and hands-on workshops, Vermont farmers are truly coming together to commemorate Vermont’s agricultural history and booming revival. And believe us, there is an event for everyone. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live out their Mad Hatter dreams by sitting down for a tea party at Free Verse Farm, or pet the newborn calves who mature to make the cheese at Vermont Farmstead? We’re sharing a few of our favorite farms participating in Vermont’s Open Farm Week below.

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Free Verse Farm This herb and apothecary farm is dong something rather unique in their pastures. Owners Misha and Taylor are serving up a bounty of naturally-grown herbal teas, remedies, body products, and culinary herbs. Rather interestingly, this duo likes to listen to the land itself. Free Verse Farm accommodates their 38 acres of dry slopes, wet low pockets, open fields, forest, and little meadows to cultivate herbs and flora in areas they naturally flourish. Misha told us, “Herbs are very particular. Elderberry, for instance, likes moist soil. Thyme and oregano thrive in dry soil.” Pockets of herbs grow throughout little habitats on the property and vary seasonally. To contribute to Vermont Open Farm Week, Free Verse Farm is hosting an Herbal Tea Party this Friday, August 18th from 5PM – 8PM. Visitors are invited to tour the farm and sip on a variety of farm-grown herbal tea blends.

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Sugarbush Farm – One of the mainstays of Woodstock, Sugarbush has been promoting “agritourism” before it was even on trend. Sugarbush started inviting folks to the farm to sample their cheese and syrup in the 1980s. As word spread, the people kept coming! Family owned for 71 years, this traditional cheese and maple syrup farm maintains its bucolic integrity in order to pay respect to the farm’s history, as well as Vermont’s agricultural efforts. Every day this week from 10:30AM – 3:30PM, Sugarbush Farm invites both children and adults to sample maple syrup, walk the maple trail, visit the sugar house, and learn how maple syrup is made in the spring!

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Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company – The product of one community’s incredible effort to revive the bucolic land an old dairy farm left behind, Vermont Farmstead has since drew seasoned farmers and cheesemakers. This land was well-worth keeping within the farming industry. Atop a hill that overlooks undisturbed pastureland and mountain peaks, Vermont Farmstead is a purely magical place to visit from a scenic perspective. The fact that this farm produces delicious, award-winning cheeses is simply the cherry on top. This company normally invites Vermont visitors to taste its cheese in their Windsor VT Market. However, in honor of this year’s Open Farm Week, Vermont Farmstead is inviting guests up to the farm itself for tours and tastings! From Monday to Friday this week, Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company is offering samplings and tours of their farm in South Woodstock from 9AM to 4PM!

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Other farms we suggest looking into this week?

Stitchdown Farm – Our friends, Rita and Andrew, are doing some amazing things over in Bethel VT. Their flower farm and arrangements are not only impressive, but also reflect Stitchdown’s choice to farm with intention. Rita and Andrew work with an emphasis on health, revitalization, and community. In our opinion, they’re ultra cool. You can find Stitchdown Farm at the Wednesday Market on the Green in Woodstock VT from 3PM to 6PM. You can pick up pre-wrapped bouquets (for yourself or a loved one!), as well as flowers by the stem.

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Fable Farm Fermentory – Fable Farm is a true reflection of the seasonal bounty, known for its “living wines” made from local fruits, herbs, saps, and honey. The result is a kind of dry cider, matured in the Fermentory’s very own aging cave. Taste Fable Farm’s libations for yourself at their Thursday Feast & Field Markets! Easily described as a scene out of a movie, this market involves live music, farm fresh tacos, various artisans, and (of course) Fable Farm Fermentory drinks.

Eat & Drink, Stay Local

Let’s Get Together: Vermont Farmstead Cheese

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While relatively new, Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company has undoubtedly grown to be a mainstay within our community. Not only have their cheeses won more than 50 awards in international and national competitions, Vermont Farmstead has also earned space in hundreds of stores and restaurants nationwide. As such, you may be familiar with the sunrise sunflower signage that distinguishes Vermont Farmstead Cheese. The company attributes their superior quality and taste to this expansive recognition, and we agree!

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What we find most interesting about Vermont Farmstead and their story is how they got their start. You see, they began as a community effort to save a local dairy farm in South Woodstock VT. When five-year-old Star Hill Dairy decided to relocate from its picturesque 18-acre farm in 2009, locals became concerned about their dairy industry jobs and the future use of the land. “There was a real sense of loss when the rumors began to fly about breaking up the farm and having the land go out of agricultural use,” says Vermont Farmsteader Sharon. Talk of other uses for the land began to circulate, some of which would compromise the bucolic landscape. After seeing this farm firsthand, we can see why the community felt so passionate about this place. The land epitomizes the beauty of Vermont pastureland. Atop a hill, along a winding dirt road, Vermont Farmstead sits amongst lush, rolling hills. Quite heroically, the community refused to sit idle. Passionate residents raised funds to purchase the land, as well as to build and obtain equipment for future dairy farming. This concerted effort brought Vermont Farmstead to town – the first community-owned artisan cheese and dairy facility in the state!

This business revival drew a crowd of seasoned farmers, cheesemakers, and industry executives from the consumer product and specialty food market. A mixed herd of cow breeds, including Holstein, Jersey, Ayrshire, and Brown Swiss (who have a beautiful grey-brown color), also came along. By June 2011, Vermont Farmstead produced its first cheese. Five months and many practice runs later, their cheese was introduced to the public market. Then, in 2013, Vermont Farmstead acquired Castleton Crackers! Talk about a perfect companion to a cheese company. These artisanal crackers are made with all-natural ingredients, using fresh milk and butter from the farm. Together, these products make Vermont Farmstead the first artisanal cheese and cracker company in Vermont!

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Vermont Farmstead attributes their success to the marriage of old world recipes and Vermont quality. Head Cheesemaker Rick Woods leads the old world initiative. “He looked to the classics as a starting point when crafting our cheeses,” notes Sharon. “He came to us with 18 years of cheese making experience and had many connections that brought old world recipes to him, specifically an 1800s Wensleydale recipe that he adapted.” In addition, Vermont Farmstead’s twelve cheese varietals are all handcrafted with 100% Vermont whole milk. The milk is sourced from the farm’s own cows, as well as from those of other local Vermont farms.

In fact, Vermont plays an incredibly big part in Vermont Farmstead’s name and identity. The company has purposely steered clear from trucking their milk in to make cheese. Instead, Vermont Farmstead houses, feeds, and cares for their own herd of cows. In fact, these cows live the the life! Even from birth, Vermont Farmstead cares for their herd like family. Indoor stalls provide cool temps and water-filled floors (a comfortable surface on which the cows can rest). Herd manager, Kelly, and her energetic Australian cattle dog allow the cows to roam freely most of the day, frolicking about the farm’s vast pasture and green knolls. Vermont Farmstead has purposefully chosen to be a “farmstead,” meaning their product comes from the cows on the farm and their on-site creamery. “Also, we make several raw milk cheeses because we want the flavors of the hillside to come through in the final taste of the cheese.” As you can imagine, this chosen process is extremely labor intensive and requires a hands-on approach. “Although the cheesemakers are following a ‘recipe’ per se,  quite a lot of adjustment happens on the fly through the look and feel of the curd – very much chemistry and artistry in sync.”

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As the company continues, Vermont Farmstead is always looking for ways to be more sustainable. They’ve already incorporated a feeding program which utilizes drain-off whey from the cheesemaking process into feed for both their cows and other local pig farms. Vermont Farmstead is also looking into sustainable power. “Ideally in time, we want to put in a digester and generate energy from our manure.” Now this would be incredible! To power the cheesemaking process with the product of their already hardworking herd would be an undoubtedly gratifying feat.

Keep your eyes on news and media posts –  exciting things are happening at Vermont Farmstead! The cheese company recently launched their new washed rind cheese, Angeline (see the photo at the beginning of our post).  An early soft-ripened cheese Lille (below) quickly became a favorite due to its creamy texture and blend of flavors, so this new product is likely to do the same!  Described as pungent on the outside, yet buttery and brilliant on the inside – oh my!  It sounds like our kind of cheese for the Jackson House Inn  (breakfasts and beyond)! Bring on the “stink”, bring on the soft velvety texture! Vermont Farmstead also continues to make their delicious Windsordales packed with fruit and their custom Alehouse Cheddars with craft beers from Vermont. One of our their most popular is Cheddy Topper, which they make exclusively for The Alchemist.

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You should also mark your calendar for the ultra fun Mac & Cheese Challenge hosted by Vermont Farmstead September 10th, from 11AM – 3PM. Held at Artisans Park in Windsor VT, about 20 local chefs and restaurants compete to be named Best Mac & Cheese. Let it be known – The Jackson House Inn competed and won third place a couple years ago! The event draws about 3,000 people with Harpoon beer, live music, a calf petting zoo, King Arthur Flour’s cookie truck, lawn games, and (of course) mac & cheese! Bring the kiddos and make it a family event, if you’d like. $17 in advance and $20 at the door. You can purchase a ticket or read more about the event here.

Ultimately, Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company is all about the reaction they get when people taste and enjoy their cheese. “It’s satisfying to know that we’re all a part of the process to make a product that is natural, tastes amazing and that people want to continue to buy.” From our perspective, their farm is also incredibly inspiring. We were simply amazed at the process by which Vermont Farmstead abides…and with simple ingredients – milk, salt, enzymes and cultures (and sometimes beer!).

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If you’d like to pick up a Vermont Farmstead cheese for yourself, you can find a variety in Hannaford, Shaws, Big Y, Mac’s Markets, and our local Coops. We love that it is available at our nearby Woodstock Farmers Market too!  Of course, you can also visit their flagship store, The Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company Market in Windsor VT. There, they offer daily free samples of their cheese and Castleton Crackers! Finally, be on the lookout for Vermont Farmstead’s new van tooling around town and throughout the area. You’ll be able to spot their bright and shiny logo on it!

Get Cookin'

Under the Tuscan Sun: Chilled Tuscan Melon Soup

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The summer heat has set in and we’re beginning to have a lot of fun with this season’s produce! One of our favorite dishes at this time of year is Rick’s Chilled Tuscan Melon Soup – a light and flavorful dish that packs a fresh punch. We’ve previously celebrated melon season by serving melon halves, hollowed out and filled with fresh berries and sorbets. Recently, however, we’ve transformed this original dish to incorporate a different texture and presentation. It is simply too much fun to play with the vibrant color and refreshing taste of this special melon. Thus, we have converted our favorite Tuscan melons into soup! This dish may have a unfamiliar look, but the nutritional benefits have remained. Incorporate your daily dose of Vitamin A, C, and antioxidants into breakfast…get your melon on with our Chilled Tuscan Melon Soup!

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Have you heard of Tuscan melons before? Also known as Napoli, Tuscan melon has been around since the Egyptian times, about 2400 BC. These little guys are actually a form of cantaloupe. They thrive in the heat, and as such, have a fairly short season. Most farms will start them in wind tunnels due to our cooler springs. These tunnels help the seedlings thrive to maturity. We source from a small specialty farm in Vermont, which harvests these melons at peak ripeness. Tuscan melons are deeply ribbed and have a crisp, sweet orange flesh. While these fruits are relatively small, they have a thick flesh and small seed cavity. Accordingly, each fruit packs a good amount of soup-worthy ingredient!

We love using Tuscan melons because of their very deep and vibrant melon profile. They tend to have a higher sugar content than other melons, making their natural sweetness top-notch. We are careful to harvest them as they are just fully ripe – when their green ribs start to fade and they have reached their optimum flavor profile. If you smell a ripe Tuscan melon, it screams fragrant and sweet! This makes our melon soup the perfect antidote to a hot or humid New England morning. Start your day off on a cool note and try our recipe for yourself!


Tuscan Melon Soup 

Servings: 5
Difficulty: Easy
Print recipe here.

Soup Ingredients:
1 Tuscan melon
2 limes, zest & juice
1.5 inch knob ginger, grated
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp natural sugar
1 Tbsp coconut milk
Pinch of salt

Garnish Options:
Toasted coconut flakes
Micro basil
Melon pieces
Avocado glacé
Toasted almonds or pistachios

Prepare Citrus Broth
Zest and juice two limes into small bowl. Grate knob of ginger into lime zest mixture. Add honey and sugar – stir until fully incorporated with no remaining sugar crystals. Taste and adjust to your liking (i.e. more honey/sugar for a sweeter taste, more lime juice or ginger for an acidic note). Tailor to your liking!

Prepare Melon
Cut melon in half. Scoop out seeds and any fiber strands surrounding the seeds. Slice into wedges (approximately 4 wedges per melon half). Remove melon rind by holding melon wedge in your hand and sliding a pairing knife between the rind and melon flesh. Slice wedges into 1 – 2 inch pieces.

Method for Tuscan Melon Soup
In a blender, add prepped melon pieces and 3/4 of citrus broth (reserve remaining 1/4 for final adjustments). Blend on low speed to break up melon (about 30 seconds). Gradually increase speed to highest setting, until fully blended. Taste. Add remaining citrus broth for an additional pop of acidity, if desired. Add a pinch of salt and coconut milk. Blend on high speed until fully incorporated (about 10 seconds). Transfer to a closed container and refrigerate overnight (this will develop a deeper melon flavor profile and soften the rawness of the melon). Very important step!!

Remove soup from fridge and mix with a hand whisk for 30 seconds, until blended. Portion about 4 ounces into a small soup bowl or attractive dish. Garnish with suggested options or your own inspirations. Serve immediately, chilled.

Eat & Drink, Go Explore, Stay Local

Strawberry Fields Forever: Summer Berry Picking

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It’s that time of year when summer produce is at an all-time high. We take this opportunity to incorporate berries, melons, and the like into our breakfast menu as often as we can. Strawberries are a particular favorite. And lucky for us, it is still strawberry picking season around these parts! We personally like to feature Vermont’s seasonal strawberries on boards with pieces of Jasper Hill‘s gooey, delicious Harbison cheese or chunks of their tangy Cabot Clothbound cheddar. Another favorite recipe? Our chilled strawberry soup – the perfect remedy to a hot or humid summer day.

Beyond serving this outstandingly fresh ingredient, we also love directing our guests to local farms for a little PYO (pick-your-own) fun. A number of farms around Woodstock invite the public to come and reap the fruits of their strawberry or blueberry fields. And let’s be honest, picking your own berries makes the produce taste that much sweeter. We encourage you to go out and pick some berries off the vine yourself! We’re sharing a couple berry picking tips, as well as a few recommended PYO farms in the area below.

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1. Despite the temptation, try not to wash your strawberries until just before you eat them. Leaving your berries away from water will help them keep longer (same goes for blueberries). You see, water introduces moisture that wasn’t in the berry before. Thus, premature washing could make your produce go bad faster. This makes sense, when you consider how rain can cause strawberry crops to deteriorate more quickly.

2. Go small! As juicy and luscious as the large berries appear, it is the smaller strawberries that tend to be more sweet and have a deeper flavor.

3. Some farms offer late harvest strawberries. There are mainly two seasons for strawberries – the more popular late spring/early summer season and the late fall/late harvest season. In Vermont, varieties such as Cabot, Clancy, Lateglow come later in the year!

4. Be on the lookout for Winona! Winona strawberries are one of our favorite varietals here at the Jackson House Inn. They are a late/mid-season berry with an intensely sweet flavor and a little peach overtone! These are the beauties we love to serve with Harbison or Cabot Clothbound from Jasper Hill Farm.

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1. Edgewater Farm is just a hop, skip, and a jump over the river in Plainfield NH. A particular favorite farm of the Jackson House Inn, we are big fans of Edgewater Farm’s effort to incorporate sustainable/organic farming practices. Find information about their PYO strawberries here.

2. Spring Ledge Farm (where the images in this post were taken) is located next to New London NH’s picturesque Pleasant Lake. Pick to your heart’s content, in your own container or one they provide for you. PYO flower and strawberry information can both be found here.

3. Moore’s Orchards located in Pomfret VT. A mere 16-minute drive from the inn will bring you to this haven. We suggest calling ahead for their seasonal hours for PYO blueberries!

FYI – We found this guide extremely helpful!

Fresh, local and delicious – those are “musts” when it comes to a summer meal, whether it is breakfast, lunch, dinner or a quick snack!  Seasonal berries will definitely bring smiles to everyone’s faces!

Stay Local, Eat & Drink

Fourth of July: Summer in Vermont

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Happy Fourth of July to all our readers, near and far! As you may have guessed, Vermont is a bit delayed in its seasons compared to where our guests call home. Being as far north as the Upper Valley, we eagerly await the signs of spring that may have already made their debut in Boston, for instance. This delayed gratification of warm spring days and blossoming blooms, however, simply makes the arrival of summer that much sweeter! Memorial Day is certainly a sign of warm days to come, but Fourth of July is the sure-fire mark that summer has arrived. What better way to kick off the season of ice cream, hikes, pond swims, and picnics? We’ve rounded up our absolute favorite summer activities to enjoy in the area this season.

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I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream
We’re lucky enough to call White Cottage Snack Bar our neighbor. While their Giffords ice cream selection is impressive, we love this place most for their view! There is truly nothing like grabbing some fries or a cone and sitting along the Ottauquechee River in the evening. Feel free to dip your toes in the water on those few sweltering days of Vermont summer!

Cheers Along the River
Many consider Long Trail a staple in these parts. We especially like visiting Bridgewater in the summer months, when the brewery’s outdoor beer garden is open! Overgrown hops surround the covered deck as the Ottauquechee River flows beside you. Enjoy a freshly made brew and a selection from Long Trail’s new food menu – we can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon!

Eat, Drink, Be Merry
Thursday evenings here are revved up a notch in the summertime. Enter the Feast & Field Market, complete with live music, local vendors, and farm fresh eats to satisfy your belly. This market is made possible by a collective led by Fable Farm. The best part? You can taste Fable Farm Fermentory’s delicious libations at the market too. BYO picnic blanket or utilize the market’s picnic tables while you watch the sunset and feast!

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Life’s a Picnic
Bring along your picnic basket and blanket – Vermont is the ideal place for outdoor snacking! One of our highly recommended picnic spots is along Silver Lake, across from the Barnard General Store in Barnard VT. Stop into BGS to grab some eats (made-to-order sandwiches and baked goods are available on site) and wander across the street to enjoy the view! Another favorite spot of ours includes the yard behind the Woodstock History Center. Walk through the alley between The Prince & the Pauper and the History Center to find the most beautiful view of Woodstock’s covered bridge. Picnic tables are available to enjoy your eats. We suggest grabbing a little something from nearby FH Gillingham & Sons or The Village Butcher.

A Dip in the Swimming Hole
A Vermont summer is incomplete without splashing around a local swimming hole. We particularly like the area below the Quechee Covered Bridge. If you’ve ever been to Simon Pearce in the summer, you’ve most likely seen swimmers below the falls, hopping from rock to rock. To us, this epitomizes summer in Vermont!

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Float Down the River
Located amongst the lively shops in Artisans Park, Great River Outfitters offers up kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and tubing throughout the summer months! Enjoy bucolic scenery surrounding the Connecticut River and spot undisturbed wildlife along the way.

Stroll Through the Green
Wednesday nights in the summer mean Market on the Green in Woodstock VT! This is the perfect opportunity to stroll through our town green, listen to live music, as well as peruse fresh and local goods from local vendors. Producers such as Plymouth Cheese and Free Verse Farm are regulars at the market. We also love Vermatzah‘s delicious bread, stuffed with seasonal ingredients. This is a mid-week treat we love to frequent!


Summer is here according to the calendar and the weather, so it’s time to take in the variety of activities around Woodstock.  Enjoy any you choose!


Stay Local, Eat & Drink

Authenticity in Tradition: Sugarbush Farm

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This week, we venture up the winding dirt road to Sugarbush Farm, first through the Woodstock Village and past Billings Farm, along the backroads toward Quechee. We pass by a few of the most idyllic little barns along the way (and maybe some “not so little” ones) and spot the yellow signs for Sugarbush. A smile appears on our faces each time we drive by one of Sugarbush’s bright signs. They are a welcomed reminder to “keep going” or that we’re “almost there!” – reassuring us that we have just a bit more to go up the dirt hill. 

We consider Sugarbush Farm one the mainstays in our little town. Not only was the farm settled following the Revolutionary War, but they’ve also been doing “agritourism” before it was even a word. Sugarbush is a truly historical destination that exemplifies a long-standing personalized way of doing things. In other words, it is the traditional Vermont cheese & maple syrup farm. 

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We chat with owner Betsy Luce and clearly understand that family pride runs deep at this farm. Betsy’s parents moved to Woodstock in 1945, when she was just 2 years old. “My grandparents were from southern Vermont and my parents had been living in New York City and were a part of the back-to-the-land movement.” The farm evolved through the years to produce the kind of food it does today. Betsy’s father began smoking cheese in the 1950’s as a way to supplement his farming income. Betsy also married Larry Luce, who had grown up making maple syrup. “So we combined the maple syrup and cheese business,” notes Betsy. By the 1980’s, Sugarbush Farm started inviting folks to the farm to sample their cheese and syrup. Word spread and the people kept coming!

Family is the main vein running through this business. Betsy and her husband have converted their home’s old living space to accommodate tastings, as well as their farm’s gift shop. Their two sons, Ralph and Jeff, also operate the sugarhouse, ship international orders, track cheese inventory, and maintain the grounds. Thus, the farm is the perfect combination of old and new. The farm maintains its natural beauty and old-school character, while also continuing to evolve as the next generation takes over.

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Tradition, history, and agriculture define Sugarbush, and Vermont provides the perfect opportunity for such a place. “Vermont is very proactive in promoting Vermont products and agritourism,” says Betsy. “The buy local movement in our state is very helpful to a business like ours.” In this fashion, it is important for Betsy and her family to maintain the bucolic integrity of the farm. This, in turn, pays respect to the history of the farm and Vermont’s agricultural efforts as a whole. Such pastoral landscape is a large part of what draws residents and visitors to Vermont, and Betsy fully supports the maintenance of Vermont’s lush scenery. “I believe the push to keep open spaces and prevent more sprawl is helpful in keeping our state beautiful which will make more people want to visit.”

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Sugarbush Farm finds inspiration in the feedback they receive from their visitors. Betsy mentions, in particular, the “comments, return visits, and telephone orders made by visitors who are appreciative of us opening our farm to the public.” This kind of reaction is of no surprise to us. When you walk onto the farm, you immediately feel the welcomeness of the place. Tastings are held directly in the farm home. A kind staffer greets you and offers a sampling of cheese and maple syrup. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to try a special edition cheese, such as the 11-year-aged cheddar we tasted (extra sharp, extra delicious!). Stepping further inside the house, you find the old farm-kitchen-turned-gift-shop. Its multiple shelves don many of our Vermont-made favorites, like Potlicker jellies and Whisper Hill soaps. Sugarbush obviously loves to promote Vermont brands, like themselves. Still, Betsy would like to “be able to feature even more local producers!” 

Once you’ve had your fill of cheese and syrup samplings, you can make your way down the hill to the farm’s working sugarhouse. A promotional video and self-guided tour await you. Believe us – you’ll leave this place with all the maple syrup knowledge you could ever want! There is truly nothing like gazing out from the farm’s sugarhouse to see grazing cows and rolling hills as far as the eye can see. We consider this particular spot a true Vermont gem.

Visit one of the original agritourism destinations yourself! It’s just around the corner! This farm is certainly a fun place for kids and those who are kids at heart. Feel free to peruse the Sugarbush products on their website, or find them in local stores throughout Woodstock and Quechee. Take a step back in time, and see what a traditionally-run farm looks like today at Sugarbush Farm!


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