It’s awesome to be able to offer our CSA members local, healthy, delicious add-on products through our partnerships with a growing number of amazing Upper Valley farmers and producers! We want to shine a spotlight on these incredible local partners by sharing their stories. We interviewed Diane Wyatt of Sweet Cow Farm, bringing you the most delicious yogurt from West Newbury, VT.
What was your process for starting your farm/business?
We were all city folk who never grew up farming. In Westfield, MA, where we grew up, the closest we had was a small garden plot. As a family, we ran a 24 hr Shell gas station food mart for 20 years. Twenty-nine years ago, my parents sold the business and moved here to West Newbury, Vermont. My brother Tom, his wife and daughter, my sister Sharon with her 2 daughters and I moved in shortly after and that’s when we started to cultivate some of the land. First we planted an orchard with apples, pears, plums, and cherries along with a quarter acre vegetable garden. Even though our family had grown, everything was on a way bigger scale than what we needed, so we thought, ok now what?
At that time in 2002/2003, farmers markets were just starting to gain in popularity so we signed up as a vendor at the Fairlee Farmers’ Market. There were a total of five vendors, and we were one of two selling produce and fruit. We couldn’t bring enough to keep up with the demand and each week we sold out. The momentum inspired Tom to plant different varieties of berry bushes. At the time, we were only planning on selling the berries and we were totally unaware that we would ultimately use the fruit from these plants in our yogurt
How did you transition from vegetables to yogurt?
We continued selling vegetables at the farmers markets for several years until the competition started getting tougher and there were more produce vendors signing up each year. Since we don’t have greenhouses and our produce season is shorter than average and very weather dependent, we started to look for other options of producing a value added product that would fill in the gaps during the first couple of months at the beginning of the market season when we really didn’t have much to sell.
Since I was 12, I’ve always kept horses, so I knew the responsibilities involved in raising large animals. It took me a couple of years but I managed to persuade my now very large family to get a family cow for our own milk consumption. So I bought a week old calf because I wanted to learn and teach everyone how to raise a calf into adulthood, breed her, and then start the milking process. It was not an easy road though, especially after she calved and we started milking.
Dairy farmers pass the knowledge on to the next generations and so much of this knowledge is not spoken, it’s just learned by their experience of growing up on a dairy farm. We didn’t know any dairy farmers, so we had nobody to answer our questions and guide us. The only person I could call when I had questions or concerns was the vet, and that can get pretty expensive! We learned a lot by trial and error and we read lots of books. Coming in, I knew the basic requirements to keep livestock healthy. But I quickly found out there’s a difference between cows and horses!
We started getting into the normal rhythm of milking and things were going pretty well while we were learning to make every dairy product we could think of, including yogurt, to use up the 4 gallons of milk we were getting daily. Even still, Clover, our cow was producing more milk than we could use, so I had the idea of making and selling yogurt at the farmers market. The market manager didn’t care that we weren’t yet licensed as long as we took full responsibility for any issues that may arise with selling dairy products and since this would be our only outlet for selling our yogurt, we didn’t think it was necessary to go through the licensing hoops for one cow's worth of milk. As we started selling the yogurt, we came to the realization that our customers wholeheartedly supported and trusted us.
How has the Pandemic affected your business?
We barely felt the pandemic as far as traveling goes because we’re always on the farm anyway. 2020 was a record year for sales and I’m assuming it was largely due to the pandemic; people having to stay and eat at home and also the increasing local food movement. Especially now, people want safe food that they can access locally. It is a comfort knowing where their food is coming from. I advertised on our website www.sweetcowyogurt.com that customers could purchase yogurt on the farm, so people started driving here to get their yogurt. We still continue to let people come here and buy products and they like to come and see the farm.
What excites/inspires you about what you do?
I love being self-sufficient, being outdoors, raising and milking Jersey cows, and working with my family. I’m also inspired by the support we get from the people who love our yogurt. It’s so exciting that we are sometimes in awe that our customers love our products like they do. We feel it’s our duty to do the best we can at making our products. To get support from our community for doing something we love to do is very inspiring. I wouldn’t trade this occupation for the world. It’s all about supporting the people that support us, giving people what they want and need and doing it in a way that is healthy, sustaining, and supports farming.
Can you talk about your experience of licensing and certification?
In 2008 we got shut down by the VT Department of Agriculture because we were not licensed to process and sell dairy products. Since we had a large customer base and following that loved our yogurt, we decided to go through the many steps and processes to become licensed. That involved building a milk house and dairy processing facility attached to our house that complies with all the milk processing and sanitation requirements mandated for safe handling and manufacturing of dairy products. We became a Federally licensed Dairy facility in 2009 and have regular inspections of our processing equipment and facilities.
How did you acquire your name?
With their small stature, big brown eyes, and curious demeanor, the Jersey Cow naturally comes across to the passerby as a Sweet Cow and maybe we’re biased but we truly believe that our Jersey cows live up to and deserve to be the first 2 words of our Sweet Cow Yogurt.
What has been one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in your experience of farming and creating your own business?
I’ve been surprised at the continued demand for full fat whole milk yogurt even though non-fat Greek yogurt has dominated the shelves everywhere in grocery stores. Also when we came on board, there weren’t any small farm yogurt producers that we knew of.With the increased demand of whole milk and small batch artisan yogurt, more small farms are cropping up now and I’m seeing other smaller producers like myself in the yogurt market. Another surprise is our elder customers rave that our yogurt reminds them of how yogurt tasted when they were growing up; I’ve even heard them say that our yogurt tastes like European yogurt that was made there and served in families for generations. I believe it’s because the milk is largely grass-fed, whole Jersey and extremely fresh. We are able to make a product that’s different from the mainstream yogurt products out there and people love it!
I’m also delighted by how our business came together. We created this way of life as a family through all of us contributing our different talents. It was my inclination to start milking cows, while Tom had the inspiration to grow many different types and kinds of fruits. Tom and Sharon go to the Norwich farmers market to sell our products and Sharon also makes and sells wonderful body care products. My brother Chris does all the farm, building and equipment maintenance and has built all the out buildings including the barn for the cows, a shop, and the yogurt facility. He also delivers yogurt to the local stores and farm stands as well as fills orders weekly for the distributor. Even my 86 year old mother is a big part of our business and is happy to offer her expertise or advice! As a family, we pooled our different talents and together we are making it work. It’s hard work, there’s no doubt about it. Cows need commitment, but it’s definitely worth it.
Do you have any advice for young farmers?
Be willing to work hard. Take care of the land and if you have animals, they come first. Take care of them because they will give back what you put into them. Animals are happy and content when their needs are met. If you have any questions, or want help starting up, contact me any time. I’m always willing to talk. If you love what you do, there’s a market for local, good, healthy, whole food and there’s room for all of us.
Interview conducted by Hannah Jeffery
It’s hard to think back to Fall when we are currently nearing the start of Summer. In October and November on the farm, days in the kitchen are a blur. It is during this time that our cabbages that make up the base ingredient in our line of Powerkrauts get harvested and processed for fermentation. Would you believe we brought in 9,000 pounds of cabbages last Fall to be chopped and packed into ferment barrels? That's equivalent to two Rhinos or one monster truck! Also, some folks might not realize we do not add vinegar to our Powerkrauts. That tang you taste is thanks to the science (or magic!) of salt interacting with the natural sugars of the cabbage. Other important factors of creating this lacto-fermentation is having the right temperature and time.
This last week, it was time for me to crack open two small batch experimental Powerkrauts to taste. I am so thrilled with the results and I'm looking forward to knowing what others think.
The first variety is a Garlic Lemon Rosemary Powerkraut. The flavor is so bright with lemon, slightly bitter with rosemary and gentle with garlic flavor. My nearly 7-year-old daughter claims to not like garlic. I believe it's when she can see it, like in a saute or home jarred pickles. When she eats farm fresh pesto or this new Garlic Lemon Rosemary Powerkraut, she can't get enough and asks for more! I envision pairing this variety with fresh asparagus off the grill. Simple as that.
The next small batch Powerkraut that I opened to taste was a Beet Powerkraut. For some people, they either love or loathe beets. I personally love beets! The color, the earthiness…this new kraut turned out just as I had hoped. I like this tossed in a green salad for a lovely burst of color. It makes a nice taco topping or just eaten by the forkful.
Both of these new varieties are small batch experimental flavors. I hope that if you have the opportunity to try either or both, that you let us know what you think. Think about the overall taste and texture. Most importantly, should we make it again? Comment below!
Your friend in fermentation,
Root 5 Farm
We are so grateful to be able to offer our CSA members local, healthy, delicious add-on products through our partnerships with a growing number of amazing Upper Valley farmers and producers! Each month, we’d like to shine a spotlight on one of these incredible local partners by sharing an interview we conducted with them.
This month, meet Randy Robar of Kiss the Cow Farm located in Barnard, VT.
Q: What was your process for starting your farm/business?
A: We started to go down the path of finding out where food actually comes from, which is a very slippery slope. We found that most stuff in the supermarket is not food and probably not healthy for you. So we thought, ok, we’ll grow our own! We started homesteading, growing a garden, then we got a cow, then meat chickens. Basically we didn’t have a clue. We knew nothing about farming when we started this. I think that’s actually helped us because we didn’t need to unlearn more traditional, industrial ways. We did lots of reading, researching, NOFA workshops and conferences, and visiting farms and listening to people. The organic concept just made sense. We thought, yes of course, there was no other option. We started off on the right foot.
Q: Can you explain the relationship you have with the other farmers that you share land with?
A: We had our cow in the garage, a few meat birds and some layers, ducks, pigs, we started maple sugaring, and we kept doing more. Very quickly we outgrew our space. We noticed there was a dairy farm sitting unused up the road from us. Concurrent to that, there was a beef farmer looking for space to graze their cows, and a veggie farmer looking for land to start a business. We found out about each other, and decided to band together to rent the space.
The family who owned the land liked the idea, but their lawyer did not. Luckily, the Vermont Land Trust stepped in to buy the property and as a group, we leased it from VLT. The initial ideas and ideals we had of working together in a lot of ways never happened. Reality set in but, we still work together. Our most well-known cooperative endeavor is Feast and Field. It started out as our farmers’ market to sell our produce and products, then we added music and now it’s become a whole experience. Hundreds of people turn out every Thursday (in non-covid times) throughout the summer and fall.
Q: Can you explain what you mean when you say “farming is a way of life?”
A: Really why we do this is to feed our community. We have people calling us up from Texas and California asking to send milk to them. We graciously decline since we’re focused on our community. Our milk is truly rare. It is certified organic, 100% grass-fed, A2 milk. There are seriously few farms in the entire country that offer this and we’re one of them. It’s a unique product and people want it, but we’re not interested in selling to, say, Boston or New York markets. We just wanna feed our neighbors.
In our farm store and in our CSA, we offer products from other local farmers and producers. We sell Root 5 stuff (naturally!) along with over 100 other VT farmers and food producers. We are committed to reselling other farmers’ food products because it helps them out and keeps them going and our customers appreciate all the local food choices. I love helping other farmers because I get it. Farming is hard. I’m grateful we are in a position to be able to offer that support.
Q: Your farm is a part of WWOOF Int’l. Any fun WWOOF-er stories?
A: My wife and I are both educators with masters degrees in education. We love teaching kids about this lifestyle, about farming, feeding a community, doing work and projects that they find meaningful. It’s a lot of fun and one of the benefits of farming. There is very little monetary profit in farming, but we get the payback in different ways, with the appreciation of our community, the smiles of patrons when they get a scoop of ice cream, and by teaching young adults skills and cultivating their love for agriculture.
One year we needed more chicken pens to move the birds across the fields. One of the WOOFERS really wanted to get experience building something with tools. When she came, she had never even held a hammer before. So together, she and I built one of these chicken pens. I asked her if she’d enjoyed that project and she said she had. I said, that’s good because we need two pens and YOU are going to build the second one. Every day she would disappear into the shop and with a skill saw, drill, lumber, and a staple gun, she built it all on her own. She was so incredibly proud of herself that she had created this thing. What an amazing experience to give this kid! And she did a good job too, we still use the pen!
Q: What are some of your favorite/least favorite jobs on the farm?
A: My least favorite would be mucking out the chicken coops in the spring after the chickens have been in them all winter. It’s just a disgusting, backbreaking job.
My favorite jobs would be hanging out with cows, and being able to provide opportunities for kids to learn and watching them grow.
Q: What has been one of the most surprising things you’ve learned?
A: (Laughs) In my previous life, I worked in the corporate world. I got out of that primarily because I was tired of spending my day answering emails, talking on the phone, being in meetings, and managing people. I just wanted to commune with my cows. And wouldn’t you know it, now as a farmer, I’m on email constantly, have lots of phone conversations, and I’m managing people. I call it, “computer farming.” Even on my days off, I’m still farming! Seriously, if anyone has bookkeeping skills, save me!
Q: How has the pandemic affected your farm?
A: Like everyone that had a CSA or farm store with direct access to customers, we were slammed last year. We were not only normal busy, we were beyond understanding busy. We didn’t have time to cope. Thankfully that’s chilled off now. We were just trying to get through it. We’re one of the lucky ones, our sales actually went up. We had to buy in more cows, because we didn’t have enough milk for people. We couldn’t make ice cream for two months, because we didn’t have the milk. Quarantining the kids coming in to work for the season was an added challenge. The first kid couldn’t get here from down south, because there was no public transportation. We didn’t do any farmers’ markets last year because we didn’t think it was safe. We feel a responsibility to try to keep all of our staff safe and healthy.
Q: How’d you get your name?
A: I used to read a book called “Kiss the Cow” as part of an educational program at a museum. Plus we do a lot of cow canoodling! It just seemed to fit who we are.
Q: What excites/inspires you about what you do?
A: Cute cows. I often joke that you can hug a cow, but you can’t hug a cabbage.
Q: Anything else you’d like our CSA members to know about you and your farm?
A: You are always welcome. Our store is always open, so come on by. We have really cute cows. And we’re looking for a bookkeeper!
For bookkeeping inquiries contact Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit their website at https://www.kissthecowfarm.com/
Interview by Hannah Jeffery
Root 5 Farm
Dear Root 5 Farm CSA Members,
Now more than ever, we’re reminded of the crucial importance of a resilient, local food system. People need to eat, which means people need to farm. We love to farm, and we're in this community for the long term.
At Root 5 Farm we’re ready to do our part to support the safety, calm, and prosperity of our community. Here’s what we’re up to in response to the virus:
Our first priority is keeping our small crew healthy. We’re limiting personal social contact, identifying potential exposures, and monitoring ourselves for any signs of illness. We offer paid sick leave, should any of our staff need it. We follow strict food safety protocols as part of our CAPS certification (Community Accreditation for Produce Safety) through the Vermont Vegetable & Berry Association. Our farm is unique in that it's not open to the public for farm stand sales, keeping exposure to possible contamination at a minimum.
We’ve also been working to get ahead of the game. As organic vegetable farmers, we've spent the entire winter planning and preparing for our growing season. All the supplies and new materials we think we might need to run the farm over the coming year have already been purchased. We feel as prepared as we possibly can be.
We want to recognize that this important work can go on because of YOU, and your early commitment to our farm as a CSA Member. When we have your support, we can focus on the work of growing your food and providing for your family. YOU are the reason this system works, and YOU are the reason we have a hopeful perspective during these uncertain times. Thank you.
Please, help us spread the word and help us grow this positive community. Tell your friends and family about the benefits of supporting a local CSA farm today.
Danielle, Benner, & Garhett
Financial Support Available
If you're feeling financially stressed right now, and you're not sure if you can afford your CSA Share, please know that we're committed to making good food available to all members of our community. We partner with the NOFA-VT Farm Share Program and the Willing Hands Share-a-Share Program to offer discounted or free shares for those with limited income. Check out these programs if you need financial assistance.
How Can I Help?
If you're in a position to offer help, please consider donating to the NOFA-VT Farm Share Program or the Willing Hands Share-a-Share Program to help ensure that all of our neighbors can access fresh, healthy food during this time of need.
Stop by the Norwich Farmers Market this Saturday 9am-1pm. This will be our first outdoor market of the season and we'll be there rain or shine with fresh spring greens and herbs to kick off the season. We'll also have our delicious oyster and shitake mushrooms, sauerkraut, kimchi, and some hardy plants to get your garden started.
Check out this Shabu Shabu recipe, it's easy to adapt with any of the spring vegetables we'll have at market this Saturday. Shabu Shabu is one of Japan’s most popular hot pot dishes. It’s a fun meal since everyone sits around the hot pot at the table, cooks together, and eats while you chat, like fondue! A communal dining experience that inspires good appetites and brings people closer together.
Our hoop houses are filling up with gorgeous greens and herbs for early spring farmers' markets and CSA Shares. Growing in these passive solar houses gives us a jump start on spring by protecting crops on frosty nights. Our field plantings will start to size up in late May and we'll turn over these hoop house beds to grow summer tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplants.
Have you heard about our customized CSA Shares?
We're so excited about this new feature for our CSA Shares this season. You can choose all of your favorite vegetables and we'll custom pack your weekly boxes! Get the convenience of fresh, organic, local vegetables of your choice delivered to an Upper Valley location near you.
Sign up for your Root 5 Farm CSA Share today!
Don't delay, spring shares begin on May 14th!
Jump into spring and get a taste of local foods this weekend! Join us this Sunday, April 7th, from 11-3pm, and bring your plate and fork to Flavors of the Valley at Hartford High School in White River Jct. This is the 18th annual celebration of local foods organized by Vital Communities, with over 50 farm and food-related vendors. We're very pleased to be part of this tasting event that brings together Upper Valley chefs, farmers, and specialty food producers. Pre-Buy advanced tickets for entry from 11am-12pm. General admission 12pm-3pm.
On Sunday we'll offer a taste of our Powerkraut varieties - original sauerkraut, carrot kraut, caraway kraut, kimchi, and our newest, and very popular, turmeric kraut. You can try a nibble of spicy radish micro greens, or sample something new and unusual with our crisp Belgian endive.
We're also harvesting some amazing over-wintered spinach from our hoop houses. It's dark green, sweet, nutty, and oh so delicious! You can pick up a bag at Flavors of the Valley this Sunday, and look for it on the menu at Market Table in Hanover and Ariana's Restaurant in Lyme later this week.
Our greenhouse is filling up fast with beautiful vegetable seedlings full of potential and vigor for the new growing season. We can't wait to taste those first buttery leaves of bib lettuce, pungent fresh herbs, and crunchy stalks of asparagus in just a few short weeks!
You can taste the flavors all season long! Sign up for your CSA Share now and enjoy a wide variety of fresh, organic vegetables from May until December. New this season, you can choose all of your favorite vegetables and customize your weekly boxes! Root 5 Farm CSA Shares begin on May 14th. Don't delay, sign up today!
Thank you for your CSA membership! We so appreciate you taking this journey with us. Our 2018 CSA season is winding down, half share members have just one more pick up and full share members have two more pick ups, so we want to take this moment to reflect on a season that was full of surprises.
Spring came late this year, we had snow and ice on our fields until April 19th!
Drought conditions in May during planting time meant irrigating early and often. Some yields suffered on cool-weather crops like peas, leafy greens, and onions.
Hot, dry conditions continued through midsummer, producing excellent yields of heat-loving crops like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.
The rains began in August, and continued through October. Winter came early with snow fall in October, three big snow events in November, and record low temperatures before Thanksgiving. This made for a fall harvest with a new load of logistical challenges.
Our fabulous crew made it all work, as they've done for each of the past six seasons.
We're very grateful for the abundant shares we were able to produce with a wide variety of delicious organic vegetables!
And we're especially grateful for our new 2-year old family member, Garhett, who arrived at the farm in May!
Once again, thank you for your CSA membership and for supporting our local food system. We're looking forward to the next growing season with you, and want you to be the first to know that we're working on a new option for you to customize your CSA shares for the 2019 season. Stay tuned for more information. Sign ups will start this month with a special discount for returning CSA members!
Jump into spring and get a taste of local foods this weekend! Join us on Sunday, 4/8, from 11-3pm, and bring your plate and fork to Flavors of the Valley at Hartford High School in White River Jct. This is the 17th annual celebration of local foods organized by Vital Communities with over 50 farm and food related vendors. We're very pleased to be part of this tasting event that brings together Upper Valley chefs, farmers, and specialty food producers. Pre-buy your tickets to flavors and save!
On Sunday we'll offer a taste of our Powerkraut varieties - original sauerkraut, carrot kraut, kimchi, and our newest, and very popular, turmeric kraut. You can snack on our sweet, crunchy carrots, try a nibble of spicy radish micro greens, or sample something new and unusual with our crisp Belgian endive. We'll have bags of carrots, spinach, microgreens, endive, and quarts of Powerkraut for sale. Stock up while you're at Flavors!
We're experimenting with growing this crop of Belgian endive in the dark under our greenhouse tables this spring, and they look great! This unique vegetable is crisp and slightly bitter when raw, making it a great addition to brighten up salads this time of year. When cooked, endive's flavor softens into a mellow sweetness- whether steamed, grilled, or braised. It's a versatile ingredient for your early spring kitchen- check out some recipes on our website.
Our greenhouse is filling up fast with beautiful vegetable seedlings full of potential and vigor for the new growing season. We can't wait to taste those first buttery leaves of bib lettuce, pungent fresh herbs, and crunchy stalks of asparagus in just a few short weeks!
You can taste the flavors all season long! Sign up for your CSA Share now and enjoy a wide variety of fresh, organic vegetables from May until December. Root 5 Farm CSA Shares begin on May 15th! Don't delay, sign up today!
Stop by the Norwich Winter Farmers' Market this Saturday from 9am-1pm at Tracy Hall. You can stock up on 5lb bags of carrots, beets, winter squash, onions, and garlic. We also have a nice crop of Belgian Endive ready for you!
Belgian Endive is crisp and slightly bitter when raw, making it a great addition to brighten up salads this time of year. When cooked, endive's sharp flavor softens into a mellow sweetness -- whether steamed, grilled or braised. They're a versatile ingredient for your winter kitchen, check out some recipes on our website.
We'll also be offering a taste of our newest batches of kimchi, carrot kraut, and a new recipe we're testing out for turmeric kraut. Come try a taste and pick up a quart of Powerkraut to keep you healthy this winter! See you on Saturday!
Mark your calendar! We have two upcoming events at Root 5 Farm. Open Farm Day this Sunday 10am-1pm, and we're hosting a CSA Potluck Farm Supper on Sunday Sept 10th at 4pm.
Stop by the farm this Sunday August 20th for a guided tour of our fields, greenhouses, and pack house. Check our website for directions to the farm. You can taste some unusual varieties we grow, and we'll have fresh vegetables, sauerkraut and kimchi available for purchase. This is a great opportunity to learn more about our organic production methods and see one of your local farms in action! This Open Farm Day is part of a greater statewide event called Vermont Open Farm Week. Check out the full schedule on diginvt.com and set up your VT farm itinerary today!
On Sunday September 10th at 4pm, we're hosting a CSA member potluck supper. Bring a dish to share and come to the farm for a walking tour of our fields, greenhouses, and pack house. This is a great opportunity to meet fellow CSA members, share stories, and see all your Fall CSA vegetables growing in the fields.
It's time to sign up for Fall CSA Shares! Our fall crops are looking beautiful and we'd love to share this bounty with you! Check out photos on our website to see what you can expect in our Fall Shares. Our shares are diverse and full of fresh greens right through the end of December! We also have Add-on Share options of Pasture-Raised Chicken, Pork, and Beef for the fall. Plus, we're partnering with Scott Farms in Dummerston to bring you Fall Fruit Shares this season. So you can get apples, plums, and other fresh local fruits along with your vegetables each week! Sign up online today!
It's rainbow time at the farmers market! We have the full spectrum of colors on display. Our summer crops are abundant and so delicious right now! Come get a taste of ripe heirloom tomatoes, Carmen sweet peppers, Romanesco summer squash, and Ping Tung eggplant! These are unique varieties, hard to find in the grocery store, and only available right now at the height of summer! You'll find us in front of Chapman's in Fairlee on Fridays, 3-6pm, and on Saturday at the Norwich Farmers' Market, 9-1pm.