Bread and Butter Farm

By Laurie Caswell Burke / Photography By Brent Harrewyn | August 31, 2016
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Two words can describe Bread & Butter Farm: sustenance and community.

A simple folksy sign advertising grass-fed beef, milk, eggs, honey, fresh bread and vegetables sits upright along a country road between South Burlington and Shelburne: “Farm Store OPEN 9–6.” Driving by this sign for years on my commute, I paid it little attention. But one day I grow curious and drive to the end of the dirt road. A barn and some hoop houses are visible from the road, but I am hardly prepared for what I find at Bread & Butter Farm.

The land is open with distant Adirondack vistas. Outside a hoop house, a young woman is cutting bushels of cilantro, which smell like perfume. Fresh bread is being delivered to the farm store. I park next to a weathered barn with two silos. A sign on a door: Music for Sprouts; a few dairy cows graze in a lush green pasture; a tractor in the nearby field prepares for planting. In the distance is a chicken house. Chickens are pecking in the grass. 

At many Vermont farms emerging around the state, young farmers are looking to embrace community through a multitude of extra offerings that help to keep them sustainable. This farm puts community front and center through a wide range of activities that complement the more traditional offerings of meat, produce and dairy.

The sweet aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafts through the room holding the Blank Page Pop Up Café. The sign says “butter coffee” and “maple coffee.” Children’s singing, dancing and laughter spills from the adjacent room. Bins of fresh vegetables, a cooler of dairy products, including fresh raw milk and yogurt, loaves of fresh bread stacked in bushel baskets with honey and maple syrup displayed on rustic wooden shelves.

Two words can describe Bread & Butter Farm: sustenance and community. This is a place to enjoy good food and fun—but you’ll also learn about the wide range of small enterprises that are thriving here, and the rich and interesting story from which it all has sprung.

For more than a hundred years, the Leduc family owned and op- erated a dairy farm on this land. In 2009, Corie Pierce and Adam Wilson earned the right to purchase the farm at its agricultural value from the Leducs, thanks to the Vermont Land Trust, which facilitated the development rights and secured funding from both Shelburne and South Burlington, neighbors and the Vermont Housing & Con- servation Board. All were among the multitude of community mem- bers who collectively made this farm land transfer possible. During the early days, Wilson focused on the livestock and the bakery that created some of the best freshly milled bread made with local grains. Pierce focused on farm operations, vegetables and education.

2016 brought big changes to the farm with Wilson’s departure to launch his own bakery. Pierce took full ownership of the farm and sought new opportunities to continue her vision of the farm as a place for community, good food, learning and fun.

Corie Pierce exudes warmth and passion for farming, and her laid- back energy makes anyone feel at ease. A New Hampshire native, she fell in love with farming at age 14 when she helped out at a neighbor’s farm. She recalls thinking, “I want this to be part of my life. I won- dered if people who don’t grow up on farms could become farmers?” Pierce clearly has proved this is possible.

Her work on this young couple’s farm continued over summers during her years as a student at Middlebury College. She loved the community connection and the ability to provide fresh healthy food to people. “Every kid should work on a farm—you learn weather, math, communication and teamwork, and a strong work ethic. You learn responsibility,” she shares. 

Two words can describe Bread & Butter Farm: sustenance and community.
Two words can describe Bread & Butter Farm: sustenance and community.

Post college, she mastered farming education through several farmer training programs, including a newly established program at Michigan State, where she ran a student organic farm and designed and implemented a farmer teaching program. 

Back in Vermont, among the many ways she educates and inspires young people who have an interest in farming, she currently teaches at the University of Vermont Farmer Training Program. Pierce’s strong belief in partnerships and community weave a thread through everything she does at the farm and in her teachings. Community story- telling, farm dinners featuring Vermont food and beverage producers, and visiting musicians—Pierce clearly gets energy from having a wide range of activity and from knowing she is spreading her knowledge and love of this work to future farming enthusiasts.

One way Pierce generates community is “Burger Night.” Looking for a great burger, salads and more? This event has become a popular Friday night happening. Kristin Borquist, a regular Burger Night fan, shares, “I love this low-key, friendly community gathering on the land enjoying the abundance of what this farm offers: just plain chilling with all ages of folks, enjoying music and good local food. Every time I come something truly magical happens.”

There is magic here. If you talk with Mike Proia, co-owner of the Blank Page Café, who prepared my maple coffee with care and placed a strip of blue and pink plaid cloth material around the cup giving it a special flair—you feel it. He explains how the 100% grass-fed Vermont butter he adds makes for a truly orgasmic first sip. “Our goal here is to create opportunities for serendipity—to embrace the uncertainty in possibility. That includes education, farming, the café experience and our community events.” I thought of that lovely song and dance I could hear from the nearby Music for Sprouts, a program for parents and young children where laughter, smiles and fun co-mingled were clearly part of this magic. Chris Dorman, Pierce’s husband, is the magic music leader, and watching him lead a group of preschoolers with drums, shakers and song right along with parents in a newly renovated room was plain inspiring.

You could talk to just about anyone you run into here and find an interesting story of how they found their way to Bread & Butter farm. Whether it be Bekah Gordon, a lady of all trades and director of the Bread & Butter summer camp program, or Henry Cammack, one of the farm’s original employees. He was “obsessed with cows” as a kid and returned to milk the Jersey cows that reside on the farm, or Bless who manages the farmland and nondairy animals. Everyone here works hard and seems genuinely happy.

Pierce sums it up well, “We’ve been here seven years, raising two young children, and the farm has changed and evolved. What will it look like in 10 years, or even 50? We feel so honored that the Land Trust conserved this farm in a time where it might have been just as easy to develop it. We are carrying on the legacy of the LeDuc family (who still reside on the farm): that’s what guides Chris and me on such a deep level.”

As the farm continues to evolve, Pierce’s team of passionate people who embrace a commitment to sharing good food and a farm-based community will continue to invigorate and inspire a new creative way of farming in Vermont. 

This enchanting farm has won Laurie Caswell Burke’s heart with its inviting community spirit, local food and music. She looks forward to being a regular on Burger Night. 

Article from Edible Green Mountains at http://ediblegreenmountains.ediblecommunities.com/things-do/bread-and-butter-farm
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