September in Vermont: Classic Cars and Rock Star Farmers
By Elle Rahilly
Take the finest local organic produce and outdoor adventure, but compliment them with a tight-knit community, and so you have the state of Vermont. Most travelers never see this side—the one sans mass crowds of tourists swarming to the nearest mountain ski resort.
While I’ve ventured north countless winters to hit the slopes, I was curious to see what the Green Mountain State would be like during the harvest season. Enticed by a series of events that highlight Vermont’s fall attractions, my friend Dave and I headed up on a brisk September morning to discover what exactly this tight-knit community was all about.
The first site was a large wooden cabin surrounded by pick-ups and Subarus: “Eaton’s Sugarhouse” said the hand-painted sign on the cabin. I kissed my cell service and city shoes goodbye, threw on my sneakers and started to explore.
It seemed like everyone who was eating at the restaurant and country store were regulars, counting on the great food and friendly service. As I found myself browsing the largest selection of local goods and home-made syrup I’d ever witnessed, I was impressed: not only do they make their own goods, but they promote and sell those from farms and breweries here in Vermont.
I had an urge to explore further, so we drove on into nearby Randolph County to see where all these goods were coming from.
A Legacy of Farming
Think: organic. Sold directly to consumers. “Made in Vermont” is a seal that, for customers, promises fresh produce, quality goods and high-grade meats. The organic is a key aspect of Vermont’s branding, and it’s paying off—the tourists “eat it up.”
Sam Lincoln, owner of Lincoln Farm told me, that farming here much more than a means of profit—it defines their way of life. The successful young farmers are rock stars!
That was the case for Sam with Lincoln Farm, whose father moved to Randolph County 21 years ago to farm, and passed down the legacy by selling it to Sam eight years ago. While dairy farming has been the basis of agriculture in Vermont for so long, Sam explained a shift in focus on many farms starting five years ago. Farmers were looking to diversify their sales.
Catching the trend early, Sam wanted to do something different. He says, “We started out in 1999 growing sweet corn and pumpkins, and now we’ve evolved. Last year we had over 80 different flowers, herbs and vegetables.” The farm also raises organic pork, chicken and turkeys. And along with a variety of other goods, Sam now sells the wine from his father’s vineyard.
Sam is innovative in conducting his own marketing through the internet and local retail outlets, to provide the freshest produce, meats and grains. Rather than selling wholesale, he establishes his own sale base by reaching out directly to customers—a sale base that is growing rapidly. In doing so, Sam truly brings the food from the farm to the table for hundreds of families throughout Vermont.
Vermont Fresh Network
I had to know where I could sample some of this fine local produce, and was pointed in the northbound direction of Charlie B’s Restaurant at The Stoweflake Inn, in Stowe, VT. In all of the winters I had spent in Stowe, I had never seen the town so beautiful.—it was green of late summer.
I headed in just as the sun was setting, creating a majestic backdrop to the quaint town. Working up quite an appetite, I popped into Charlie B’s, excited to finally sample the fine local cuisine.
The Stoweflake’s energetic ambiance, local Vermont food selection and hospitality of the staff were outstanding. As a member of the Vermont Fresh Network, Charlie B’s proudly uses locally grown produced foods, raised meats and tasty artisan cheeses for its menu selection.
Our server Dori Lee was happy to suggest food and beverage from a local’s perspective. We sampled the Switchback—the “unofficial beer of Vermont”, a cross between brown and pale ale, just one of seven draft selections, alongside 40 wine selections. My friend Dave and I also sampled a smorgasbord of Vermont cheeses, along with two of the best Angus steaks we’ve ever tasted.
The British are Coming
When we arrived in Stowe we saw lots of cars heading in a particular direction down Route 108. Curious, we followed, leading us to the largest British classic car show on the East Coast, with over 650 cars on display.
The British Invasion attracts rows of international designer cars like Aston Martins, Mini Coopers, Triumphs, and others. Being a huge car fanatic, Dave was practically beside himself.
I was impressed to discover the majority of cars to be owned by locals, all standing triumphantly by their freshly polished claims to fame, mini-celebrities for the day. One gentleman, Lou Young of Hinesburg, VT, was happy to chat with me, explaining his legacy for several years with the classic car show, standing alongside his 1960 Triumph. Hey, he was even nice enough to let me hop in.
The showground was vast, with a series of local restaurant booths set up to create a ring around the line up of classic British cars, a judge’s podium in the center. With a British accent booming through the microphone, a quirky judge listed off all the details about classic cars in the running.
The British Invasion Festival started in 1900 and has evolved to become one of the top 10 events for Vermont. The classic car show takes place every year, on the third Saturday of each September.
Just Like Home
Wiped out from the day, Dave and I retreated to the White Birch Cottage in nearby South Duxbury. Initially, we thought the cottage’s selling point would be its convenient proximity to hotspots such as Burlington, Montpelier and Stowe. Oh how we were wrong.
Slightly confused as we pulled up to a cottage, Karen Cavoretto came running out to wave us down and ensure us that yes—we were in fact spending the evening in not just one room, but this entire gorgeous cottage set on the mountainside. Too good to be true, it seemed. First classic cars—now our own cottage!
Karen greeted us with a warm smile, a hug and a freshly baked apple pie. She showed us around the beautifully finished cottage. Inside were five bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom, a loft, and a deck expanding off the back, perfect for watching the sun rise (which we did the next morning!)
Karen told us the history of the cottage that, with her husband Robert Cavoretto, she started three years ago by making their guest cottage into an Inn. With a pond right next door to the cottage and trails within walking distance, she and Robert take it upon themselves to show each guest a great time.
Whether it be building fires for her guests, teaching kids of families to catch frogs by the pond, or providing almost any food the guests request, the two go above and beyond to bring something unique to the table, to enhance each guest’s stay in the area.
The couple found inspiration in the joy of sharing with others their beautiful setting. Karen said, “We take this granted for every day. It makes us appreciate what we have, seeing our guests experience new opportunities.”
Perhaps that’s why Robert was happy to take the son of one guest family on a fishing trip at 5:30 AM. Or why the Cavorettos were happy to whip out some venison from their hunting freezer when a French guest of theirs came to stay.
Le Tour de Farms
On Sunday, our final day in Vermont, Dave and I headed southwest to Le Tour de Farms in Shoreham, a 30-mile bicycle tour of nine local farms. The tour is hosted by Rural Vermont, a community of citizens based out of Montpelier with the strong belief that, “family farms and local food opportunities are at the heart of thriving communities [for Vermont].”
The bike tour starts and ends on the Shoreham Green, where several local vendors and craftspeople set up shop to promote their products and the local economy at large, such as the brewers of “Whistle Pig Rye Whiskey” based out of nearby Rutland, VT.
There were about 500 cyclists bustling around the green, anxious to start the long and rural tour ahead of us. There are options for a 5-mile, 10-mile, 25-mile or 30-mile bicycle route for touring the local farms, for the convenience of each participant. Along the routes are nine local farms that set up tables for sampling, including fresh apples, pesto, cheese, wine, cider and milk, plus bread and cookies.
At one stop on the tour, Sunrise Gardens, owner Linda Welch was happy to show us around. She introduced us to her rare Sebastopol goose, American buff geese, baby peacocks and American wild turkeys. Unofficially, the farm also hosts animals including a chinchilla, a parrot and pair of cockatiels. “I’ve been hoarding animals my entire life”, Linda explained as I stared wide-eyed at all the animals around my feet.
The farm was established in the year 2000, consisting of two large greenhouses, and paddocks where their two horses and three goats graze. Linda takes care of the greenhouses and the bakery, and Welches sell goods such as apple pies and cider donuts.
When we got back to the green we found two local bands, “Extrastout” and “Split Tongue Crowe” from Rutland, playing for Applefest, a local fundraiser for the Shoreham Platt Memorial Library. Applefest and Rural Vermont teamed up to promote one another’s events ever since Applefest’s startup 5 years ago.
According to coordinator Shannon Bohler-Small, the event is intended to highlight harvest time for orchards, as apples are a big tradition in Shoreham.
From 12 to 5 PM I sampled organic cuisine, local brews and met locals celebrities like Anne Hambleton, author of Raja, Story of a Racehorse. I even got to meet the horse who was the inspiration for the novel’s protagonist.
Le Tour de Farms is a fantastic way to experience Vermont tourism during harvest, with hundreds of locals and travelers gathering to tour the farms together, along with countless local products to sample. The event started in 2008, and takes place each year on the third Sunday of September.
Elle Rahilly is an editorial assistant for GoNOMAD.com and a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
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