• Eat it on the Radio

    Eat it on the Radio

    In his book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, Vermont author and environmentalist Bill McKibben focuses on the importance of strong communities for the health and well-being of the planet and its people. He suggests that we can strengthen our home regions by producing more of our own food, generating more of our own energy, and even creating more of our own culture and entertainment. To achieve these goals, McKibben advises, we need to build or rebuild local institutions that draw people together, and one such institution that he cites in his book is a low-power radio station in the Mad River Valley: WMRW-LP Warren, 95.1 FM.

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  • A Passion for Artisan Soap

    A Passion for Artisan Soap

    My soap-making journey started a decade or so ago, when I was becoming more and more sensitized (allergic) to mainstream, detergent-type soaps. Eventually I just couldn’t use them anymore. As I researched the subject, I became alarmed at what was being used in cosmetic products on the market, not to mention all the harmful chemicals leaching into our waterways as a result of those products. I decided to start making my own soap, and the enthusiasm I had back then for soap making has now turned into a passion and a business for me. My only regret is that I didn’t start making them sooner!

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  • Halal in the Hills

    Halal in the Hills

    Art Meade is a 59-year-old livestock and poultry farmer with a thick Maine accent and a farm on Route 100 in Morrisville. He also happens to run the only state-licensed slaughter facility in Vermont that caters to Muslims who practice halal slaughter. This is the Muslim tradition of swiftly slitting the throat of a domesticated meat animal with a sharp knife; the animal is believed to be killed instantly and painlessly (though there is some debate about that). Muslims, who are directed by their religion to eat halal meat, can purchase such meat in Vermont stores, but some prefer to do the slaughter themselves.

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  • How to Start a Community Garden

    How to Start a Community Garden

    Back in January, as my husband and I searched for a place to live in Middlebury, we had big plans to create a summer vegetable garden. But it quickly became clear that housing in town with gardening space wouldn’t be easy to find. Apartments that advertised a “big yard” always seemed to have a “scruffy lawn,” and few landlords reacted well to my desire to dig out a portion of that lawn to plant vegetables.

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  • The Story of Bread

    The Story of Bread

    Green Mountain Flour, a new artisan bakery in Windsor owned and operated by Zachary Stremlau and Daniella Malin, takes a unique approach to its craft: it uses local wheat, local milling, and local fuel to create its flours, breads, and pizzas. Here, woodcuts that comprise the bakery’s logo tell “the story of bread,” echoing a time in early New England when, according to Zachary and Daniella, “the farmers knew the miller, the miller milled with stone, and the baker baked with fire.”

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  • How to Get Grounded

    How to Get Grounded

    On a road in Cabot, not far from the land that Laura Dale and Cyrus Pond bought this past March, you can look out to the west at a horizon dominated by the undulating spine of the Green Mountains. For many young farmers in Vermont, the cost of land can seem as daunting and insurmountable as the largest of those mountains in the dead of winter.

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  • Tapping for Taste

    Tapping for Taste

    There are people in Vermont who prefer fake maple syrup—not just people who are looking for something cheaper but who actually prefer the stuff made of corn syrup. There are other people in Vermont who don’t talk to those fake syrup types. And there are Vermonters who stand by Grade B for all occasions and others who keep a little Fancy on hand.

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  • Classy Wheat

    Classy Wheat

    Last year, I arrived at The Putney School as their new gardener and was tasked with getting the high school students at this Putney boarding and day school excited about gardening. Early on, the farm manager told me he had planted some wheat on the edge of one of the farm’s hayfields. I was intrigued.

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  • Farm Camp—Planting Confidence, Harvesting Strength

    Farm Camp—Planting Confidence, Harvesting Strength

    As I downshift off the Putney exit of I-91, my husband, Jerry, is roused from his dozing by the hollow sound of several hundred jostling maple syrup jugs. It’s April, time to buy containers for our maple syrup at Bascom’s 10% container sale, and time to post Farm Camp flyers.

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  • The First Localvores

    The First Localvores

    I have always been fascinated by wild foods. When I was a kid growing up in Indiana we had a copy of Euell Gibbons’ book Stalking the Wild Asparagus, and I remember how exciting it was to read about eating cattails, making acorn flour, and brewing sassafras tea. As I recall, the cattail stalks tasted a bit like mild turnips, the acorn flour was tannic and needed a lot of processing before being edible, and the tea tasted like something just this side of root beer. Little did I know as a kid that wild edibles such as cattails and acorns were just a couple of the foods historically gathered and consumed by the first people to inhabit the state I would one day call home.

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  • Getting Everyone to the Table

    Getting Everyone to the Table

    Back in January, as my husband and I searched for a place to live in Middlebury, we had big plans to create a summer vegetable garden. But it quickly became clear that housing in town with gardening space wouldn’t be easy to find. Apartments that advertised a “big yard” always seemed to have a “scruffy lawn,” and few landlords reacted well to my desire to dig out a portion of that lawn to plant vegetables.

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  • A 10-Year Stroll

    A 10-Year Stroll

    With hundreds of spectators lining Main Street in Brattleboro, the groomed and bedazzled heifers are led down the center of the street to the cheers of onlookers. Hundreds of cows preen for the delighted crowd, followed by more farm animals (bulls, goats, and horses), tractors (also decorated for the parade) floats, clowns, marching bands, street performers, and all manner of groups touting their various farm affiliations.

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  • Cookbooks, Culture,  and Community

    Cookbooks, Culture, and Community

    The case for local nuts. No, I’m not talking about your odd mother-in-law, your bizarre ex-boyfriend, or that whacko who expresses herself, extensively, at town meeting. And I don’t mean aficionados or extremely enthusiastic people. I mean those portable nuggets of nutrition, held aloft by tree limbs. A nut, technically speaking, is a big seed enclosed by a hard shell. And even though you’re now fantasizing about almond and macadamia instead of weirdo and diehard, I’m here to tell you about what nuts we can grow in Vermont, and why.

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  • After the Fire

    After the Fire

    Barn’s burnt down…now I can see the moon. –Chinese proverb

    Yet the converse is also true: Yes, we can see the moon, but it won’t shelter tractors, nor can vegetables be washed, packed, and stored inside its lovely glow. Oh, the moon is beautiful, but what can it do for food and a business after the fire is put out?

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Halal in the Hills

Illustration of goat

Written By

Caroline Abels

Written on

June 01 , 2010

Art Meade is a 59-year-old livestock and poultry farmer with a thick Maine accent and a farm on Route 100 in Morrisville. He also happens to run the only state-licensed slaughter facility in Vermont that caters to Muslims who practice halal slaughter. This is the Muslim tradition of swiftly slitting the throat of a domesticated meat animal with a sharp knife; the animal is believed to be killed instantly and painlessly (though there is some debate about that). Muslims, who are directed by their religion to eat halal meat, can purchase such meat in Vermont stores, but some prefer to do the slaughter themselves.

Art has “a couple hundred” do-it-yourself slaughter customers at his Winding Brook Farm—mostly Somalis and Bosnians from the Burlington area—and he sells them 500 animals a year. Visitors go into the pens at the farm, choose an animal (goats are the most popular) and slaughter the animal in a small concrete structure. Art affectionately refers to his immigrant customers as “ethnics” and has become familiar with many of their customs and beliefs since first offering do-it-yourself slaughtering 15 years ago. Here are excerpts from a conversation I had with Art at his farm in early May. –Caroline Abels

On his customers: If you want to buy a lamb or a goat or whatever, I have no problem if you’re white or black or whatever, but the majority of my customers are foreign. In the 15 years I’ve been doing this, I think I’ve had only three or four Americans do their own animals, and most of them had some sort of an ethnic partner. Americans have just lost touch with where their meat comes from. If it doesn’t come out of a plastic bag, we don’t know what it is. But for most of my customers it’s still part of home, it’s very much a part of their religious custom, and they save a hell of a lot of money. If they have the talent to do their own processing, they can save themselves quite a few dollars.

On the early days: First I had Bosnians come. A lot of them are truck drivers and they’d drive by on Route 100 and see the farm and see the sheep and start asking if they could do this. For a long time I said no—I thought it would be a pain in the ass and I didn’t want to deal with it. I was already selling everything I had. Then finally one day—I probably ran out of money that day!—I said, “Yeah, go for it.” And I basically started out with, “Here’s a rope and a beam,” and they went into the tractor shed and pushed the manure away and we started killing animals. With the ethnic community, you say one thing and it spreads like wildfire, so we went from small to a little bigger, to a little bigger, then we put down some cement, put plastic on the walls. Then we had some company from Montpelier [the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, which said he was breaking the law by allowing this kind of slaughtering outside an inspected facility]. We put in the facility four or five years ago. Everyone said, “Just send them to the slaughterhouse.” Well, a slaughterhouse is not going to want someone walking in with their own knife, killing their own animal. And my customers like what happens here: the animals go into a big pen, they’re not pushed around, they don’t suffer. It makes the life of an ethnic family better.

On the language barrier: The Bosnians have enough English so that it works, and the Somalis have enough English skills to manage. With some of the words, it takes a while to figure out what they’re looking for: plastic, a box, a knife. But they haven’t been overly hard to speak with. I never see this very much with the Bosnian community, but with the Somali community they point to something and say, “$2.99?” That [negotiating] gets to be real hard. I’ve learned to start high. But I don’t make a large percentage on these goats ‘cause I’m dealing with a very poor group of people. If it wasn’t for food stamps, I couldn’t do this. If I increased my price, I’d lose them all.

On his business after September 11: It was very weird. I never saw a Muslim for over a month. And then I had some people say, “Well, how can you sell to these Muslims after this?” And I said , “I’m not going to stop selling to all Catholics and Protestants, because if you think of the number of people killed in Northern Ireland over religious wars, it far exceeded 9/11.” When I finally got some of them to start coming back, we’d start talking and they’d say, “We’re embarrassed. That is not what we’re about. We are a peace-loving group and we are just so ashamed to be associated with those radicals.”

On special occasions: Some of the folks, they are so—especially the Bosnians—so proud of their children when they graduate from college and high school. I mean, I love college graduations—that’s five or six lambs! And if they have a wedding, that’s always a big thing. And the birth of a son.

On the Muslim women who perform halal slaughter: Oh—get the hell out of the way! Some of them come with beautiful dresses on, and I have aprons for them, and I keep a couple of pairs of boots around that they wear. But then, get out of the way! They’re not squeamish at all. I probably have more men who are squeamish.

About the Author

Caroline Abels

Caroline Abels

Caroline Abels is the editor of Local Banquet and the founder-editor of Humaneitarian.org, a website that inspires people to buy and eat humanely raised meat.

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