• Publishers' Note Spring 2010

    Publishers' Note Spring 2010

    In May 2009, the Vermont Legislature took a bold step toward strengthening sustainable agriculture in the state. Our lawmakers passed a bill called The Farm to Plate Investment Program, which seeks to increase economic development in Vermont’s food and farm sector by creating food- and farm-related jobs, improving access to healthy local foods for Vermonters, and expanding local and regional markets for Vermont products. Since the bill’s passage, the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund has taken the lead in working with a variety of ag-related groups to develop the 10-year strategic plan mandated by the bill.

    Continue Reading

  • Gardening Like the Forest

    Gardening Like the Forest

    Modern gardeners have grown accustomed to segregating different types of plants into different places—herbs in one bed, veggies in another, perennials and flowers somewhere else, while the orchard stands alone. But this isn’t the way things work in a forest. Nature functions in wholes, enabling cooperation between species to generate robust, resilient systems that optimize the use of available sun, water, nutrients, and space.

    Continue Reading

  • Set the Table with Switchel

    Set the Table with Switchel

    Long a staple in Northeast hayfields as a thirst quencher and restorative, switchel—alternatively called “haymaker’s punch” —was a colonial era proto-Gatorade, a source of both hydration and electrolyte replenishment. Recipes vary, but the most common ingredients were molasses, cider vinegar, and ginger, mixed to taste in a jug of very cold well water. While the concoction could have provided benefit to all manner of laborers and sporting folks, its use was particularly common among the workers of the hayfield and the children who carried the switchel jug to them.

    Continue Reading

  • The World in a Glass of Milk

    The World in a Glass of Milk

    My first memory of drinking milk was walking through the lunch line in my grade-school cafeteria, picking up a red-and-white half pint carton of low-fat milk from an ice-filled service container, and placing it on my plastic tray. After sitting down at a table, everyone would pick up their wet carton and shake it vigorously to blend the frozen crystals with the unfrozen milk. It tasted cold and refreshing, like an unsweetened ice milk slushy, and was a perfect match for a sticky-sweet peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bag of salty chips.

    Continue Reading

  • Pie Local

    Pie Local

    Any critics of the local food movement—anyone who has ever insinuated that it’s elitist or indulgent—should know that at The Pizza Stone in Chester, a pie starts at $8.99. That’s for a large—eight slices—with extra local goodness baked right in: Vermont cheese, meats, veggies, and flour. What allows this new and popular eatery to keep its pies so locally sourced and reasonably priced?

    Continue Reading

  • Mycelium Launching

    Mycelium Launching

    Terra Fructi. It sounds like perfect Latin. But Emily Bragonier and Liz Richards will be the first to acknowledge that they took linguistic liberties in creating a name for their new mushroom farm in Westmoreland, New Hampshire. “It’s actually grammatically incorrect,” Liz admits. “My mother, who is a Latin teacher, told us that terra fructi literally means ‘the earth fertile,’ which doesn’t necessarily say ‘mushrooms.’ But we hoped people would hear it and think of the fruits of the earth.”

    Continue Reading

  • Restoring Vermont’s Heritage

    Restoring Vermont’s Heritage

    “The farming of our fathers was exceedingly simple, content to draw from a virgin soil the supplies of simple wants, instead of aiming itself for their increase. With the impoverishment of the soil, with the forests almost swept off the face of the country and the consequent climate change, with the multiplied wants of society and development of so many new industries, the highest intelligence and energies are required to remodel our system of agriculture so that it may fully meet the demands made upon it.

    Continue Reading

  • Red Hen’s All-Vermont “Cyrus Pringle”

    Red Hen’s All-Vermont “Cyrus Pringle”

    Those who have been following the various “Localvore Challenges” happening around the state will know that bread made from local flour has always been one of the biggest “challenges” for localvores. In 2006 and 2007, Randy George, owner of Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex, produced special “Localvore Loaves” using whole wheat from Vermont, but each loaf came with a full-page disclaimer about why the bread didn’t meet normal Red Hen standards. In the disclaimer, Randy explained that he hoped someday he would be able to make an all-local wheat flour bread that he would be proud to sell alongside his other loaves. Most localvores thought the bread was pretty good, but Randy didn’t feel right putting the Red Hen name on it without his caution and explanation.

    Continue Reading

  • King Arthur Flour’s  100% Vermont Bread

    King Arthur Flour’s 100% Vermont Bread

    Wheat breeding for the past century has focused almost exclusively on high-yielding varieties suited to the climates of the Midwest and West, not to New England. Due to our thin and rocky soils, hilly lands, and increasingly wet summers, Vermont wheats don’t have the easy virtues of wheats grown in the Midwest; one might kindly describe them as developmentally challenged. For a long time, this served as an impediment to bakers, and breads were rarely baked exclusively from Vermont grains.

    Continue Reading

  • Celebrate with “Vermatzah”

    Celebrate with “Vermatzah”

    Matzah has been used for centuries to celebrate Passover and the start of spring. Now it can be used to celebrate local wheat and heritage grains, too.

    Continue Reading

  • A Farmhouse Feeds Its Neighbors

    A Farmhouse Feeds Its Neighbors

    When Joseph Kiefer and Martin Kemple founded Food Works in 1987, phrases such as “food security” and “local food system” had yet to come into common parlance. It was ambitious—maybe even radical at the time—to think of using gardens and locally grown food to address the root causes of childhood hunger.

    Continue Reading

  • A Nose to Tail Heart to Heart

    A Nose to Tail Heart to Heart

    If I seem a little distracted, it’s most likely because I have to finish an order of cow’s tongue, warm up a duck’s heart, or explain the difference between fat-back and bacon to a curious but suspicious patron. It’s not that I don’t want to sit and talk—I’d love to have a beer with you, talk about where our ingredients come from, let you know that the rabbits really do like to be fed carrots, note the difference between Muscovy and Peking duck. It’s just that right now, there’s a couple in front of the Belgian taps who are waiting on their cheese plate. Be right back…

    Continue Reading

  • Farmers' Kitchen—Seeing Purple

    Farmers' Kitchen—Seeing Purple

    Many people mark the arrival of spring with the sighting of the first robin. On our farm, the true harbinger of spring is the sight and taste of the first asparagus that noses its way out of the ground. Growing outdoors is a challenge for all farmers in the Northeast Kingdom—where, as the saying goes, one is never sure if a July frost indicates the last frost of spring or the first frost of fall. Asparagus means that spring not only has arrived but is here to stay, a cause for celebration.

    Continue Reading

  • Last Morsel—A Perfect Day

    Last Morsel—A Perfect Day

    Each year, Monkton Central School in the Champlain Valley holds its annual Farming in Monkton Writing Contest. Students in grades 3 to 6 are invited to write a sketch about farming, and entries are evaluated by a local judge. Following is the 2009 winning entry, written by 11-year-old Ashley Turner. It’s a fictional account, based on her real-life experiences on various Monkton farms.

    Continue Reading

  • Editor's Note Summer 2010

    Editor's Note Summer 2010

    There’s so much about modern American culture that our farmer ancestors could never have imagined. The popular Facebook game FarmVille comes to mind. That’s where you sit at your computer “harvesting” corn and squash from your virtual farm while studying spreadsheets to make sure your farm is profitable. Yes… your farm… your computer farm.

    Continue Reading

  • 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.

    Continue Reading

  • Set the Table with Tortillas

    Set the Table with Tortillas

    I have to admit, having lived in California for more than 20 years, I have a soft spot for Mexican food. Actually, that’s putting it mildly; I could eat it every day. So when we relocated to Vermont to start this latest adventure in our lives, I figured I’d be saying adiós to some beloved friends. No more fresh tortillas steaming hot in a basket to accompany those creamy refried beans.

    Continue Reading

  • Buried Treasure

    Buried Treasure

    A buried kimchi pot looks like a small bump in the ground.

    The buried kimchi pot at Laughing Lotus Farm looks like a small bump in the ground in someone’s dooryard, which a visitor could walk past without a second glance.

    “But imagine a field of buried kimchi pots!” Dave Brodrick enthused minutes after I arrived at Laughing Lotus Farm and walked past the bump in the dooryard. I imagined a field of the same small bumps.

    Continue Reading

  • Mami and Papi

    Mami and Papi

    My partner, Meg, and I made our first journey to Mexico in the two weeks before Christmas 2009. We enjoyed some beach time on the Pacific, caught a couple of monster fish, and rode a few waves. We were joined there by our friends Isaac and Melissa, Craftsbury residents who are in the Peace Corps in Panama. After a week on the beach we rode the bus inland to Ixtapa. This is four hours southwest of Mexico City, in the state of Guerrero, and is home base for the Reyes Vargas clan. The Reyes Vargas have nine children, and we have gotten to know seven of them over the past four years.

    Continue Reading

  • New to America,  Old Hands at Agriculture

    New to America, Old Hands at Agriculture

    There’s something exciting happening at the Intervale. “So what else is new?” you might say. “There’s always something interesting happening at the Intervale.” But not every day do you see families from more than four different countries, speaking a mix of different languages, planting lenga-lenga, molukhia, or Asian mustards side by side in a lush valley in Vermont. This summer that will be the scene at the gardens at Ethan Allen Homestead, a field at the Intervale Center in Burlington, and on farmland in Shelburne.

    Continue Reading

  • Human Manure

    Human Manure

    In gardening, we cannot escape cycles—not that we’d want to, since they’re what keeps the whole party going. There are the obvious cycles, like the eternal cycle of seasons, and the accompanying growth cycle from seed to seedling, to plant, flower, or fruit, and back to seed again. But there’s another cycle taking place in every garden and on every farm that is the most fundamental of all, but nearly invisible.

    Continue Reading

  • Farmer's Kitchen—Strawberry Fields

    Farmer's Kitchen—Strawberry Fields

    There’s something exciting happening at the Intervale. “So what else is new?” you might say. “There’s always something interesting happening at the Intervale.” But not every day do you see families from more than four different countries, speaking a mix of different languages, planting lenga-lenga, molukhia, or Asian mustards side by side in a lush valley in Vermont. This summer that will be the scene at the gardens at Ethan Allen Homestead, a field at the Intervale Center in Burlington, and on farmland in Shelburne.

    Continue Reading

  • Last Morsel—Three Weeks in June

    Last Morsel—Three Weeks in June

    We arrived at the campground in Watsonville, California, long after dark. Stepping out of the van, I paused, tilting my ear toward the distant sound of crashing waves. Overhead, the moon gleamed, half full beneath a thin layer of clouds. I turned toward the west—at least where I thought west was—and gazed at the ocean. It was glinting, shiny, and mysteriously still. I gazed at it for a long time, absorbing the distant calm of the water. Waves, I thought to myself, must not look the same from a nighttime distance, in hazy moonlight.

    Continue Reading

The World in a Glass of Milk

milk can

Written By

Lisa Harris

Written on

March 01 , 2010

My first memory of drinking milk was walking through the lunch line in my grade-school cafeteria, picking up a red-and-white half pint carton of low-fat milk from an ice-filled service container, and placing it on my plastic tray. After sitting down at a table, everyone would pick up their wet carton and shake it vigorously to blend the frozen crystals with the unfrozen milk. It tasted cold and refreshing, like an unsweetened ice milk slushy, and was a perfect match for a sticky-sweet peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bag of salty chips.

I don’t recall many other times throughout my childhood when I would drink milk by itself, but I do remember the small grey metal box on our front porch that we kept out for the milk man. It felt a little bit like Christmas the one day each week when we put out the empty bottles the night before a delivery. I always enjoyed stepping out the front door the next morning to find bottles of milk and cream. In time, those bottles turned into cartons, and eventually we had to make the trip to the store for milk, when the deliveries ceased.

As an adult there have been a few times when I’ve enjoyed a glass of cold milk, usually with a few warm cookies or a slice of chocolate cake. But milk was never a consistent food of choice for me on its own.

Then I was blessed one evening last summer when a friend took me to a farm in Brookfield where she had been working to learn about livestock and dairy farming. She had grown quite fond of the cows and wanted to introduce me to the farmer and the animals.

We arrived in the early evening, soon after milking time, and the farmer stopped by the barn to say hello. When I mentioned that I had never tasted raw milk before, he immediately picked up a clean glass canning jar and held it under the spigot of the large, stainless-steel bulk tank, which had just been filled with fresh milk from his mixed breed herd. The creamy white liquid flowed quickly into the jar, which he then held out for us to sample. I smiled after I took my first tentative sip, then took a longer drink. In that brief moment of hesitation I realized that even though I understand where food comes from and how to transform it from a raw piece of fruit, vegetable, grain, or meat into a familiar looking dish, I still have a sense of wonderment about pulling something from the ground or taking it from an animal’s body and eating it. This milk was smooth, fresh, and cold and I quickly realized that there was something different about it.

My first sip of fresh, raw milk at that farm was vibrant, alive, and multidimensional. It was as if I had just tasted the universe. Just think about the difference between eating a strawberry or blueberry from the store, compared to a berry that you’ve just picked yourself and popped into your mouth, still warm from the sun. That fresh berry is still alive—the juices had been flowing through it just moments before you picked it. So much energy remains available in that piece of fruit, and you can taste it. After drinking the raw milk, I thought about how flat and empty most store-bought milk tastes in comparison, after its rawness has been removed. Later, when I subjected my partner to a blind taste test of a glass of store-bought organic pasteurized milk versus a glass of raw milk, she could tell the difference right away. She said of the processed milk, “It tastes like there’s a barrier between me and the cow.”

I thought about her statement and it made perfect sense. That barrier between the cow and our glass of store-bought milk consists of: the tank truck that collects milk from different farms and multiple herds of cows, the bumpy trip along the roads it takes from the holding tank to the processing facility, more tanks and processing equipment, heat and sterilization processes, homogenization, cooling in yet more tanks, packaging, more transportation along more roads, more storage, and finally, its place on the shelf at the store, where we pick it up, transport it one more time, and set it to rest in our own refrigerators. If you’ve ever bounced around in a pickup truck on dirt roads, or been lined up and subjected to X-ray, forced air jets, or any other mode of search and seizure at the airport, then shared the same small compartment of air on an airplane with many other people and finally arrived at your destination, remember how you felt at the end of your journey. Personally, I would feel pretty exhausted and my energy would be depleted after such an ordeal. That is what processed milk tastes like to me—exhausted and depleted.

Since that first fresh-milked taste at the farm, where the only barriers between the cow’s milk and my mouth were the farmer and his milking equipment, I have made it a point to seek out raw milk whenever I can. I have tasted the rich cream-on-top milk from a herd of Jersey cows and the leaner milk from a mixed variety of mutt herds. I have had milk from organically raised cows and non-organic cows, and milk from a micro-dairy that raises only two cows on pasture. At the micro-dairy I was told that the quality, color, and flavor of the milk changes with the seasons, when their cows are grazing on pasture, and when they have fresh flowers in the grass to munch on. I had never really thought about my ability to taste the terroir, or sense of place, or taste of a season, through the milk of a cow. I look forward to seeking out milk throughout the different seasons, to see how the flavors change with the different foods the cows eat.

What a wonderful way to explore the living world through our palates. Maybe the next time you pass a farm with a “raw milk for sale” sign out front, you will consider giving your mouth and body a treat by picking up some fresh, raw milk and experiencing for yourself how the world tastes in a glass.

Raw Milk Gets Legislative Boost

Raw milk is fresh milk that hasn’t been pasteurized or homogenized the way retail milk has. To some, that means a healthier and tastier milk, easier to digest and more tolerable for people with dairy allergies. To others, raw milk is a health risk, believed to be more likely to transfer harmful pathogens to humans because it has not been sterilized.

Until 2008 a farmer could only sell less than 25 quarts (6.25 gallons) of raw milk daily from the farm. That year, the state legislature raised the daily maximum to 50 quarts (12.5 gallons). Then in the spring of 2009, in response to consumer and farmer demand, the legislature passed a law that raised the maximum even more.

The law places raw milk sellers into two tiers: those in Tier 1 sell 50 quarts or fewer a day, while those in Tier 2 can sell up to 160 quarts (40 gallons) a day. Farmers in Tier 2 must adhere to testing and inspection requirements but can deliver raw milk to the homes of pre-paying customers. Farmers in Tier 1 aren’t subject to inspection and their milk doesn’t require testing, but they can only sell raw milk on their farm.

Since the new law took effect in July 2009, dairy farmers have been able to earn more income from the $5 to $10 per gallon that people pay for raw cow’s milk. (It’s between $6 and $14 for a gallon of raw goat’s milk.) Yet Vermont residents still cannot buy raw milk in retail stores and it can’t be sold across state lines. For a directory of Vermont raw milk producers, go to www.ruralvermont.org.

About the Author

Lisa Harris

Lisa Harris

Lisa Harris currently lives in Huntington, where she writes, eats, and is breathing new life into her blog.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest. Optional login below.

What we do

A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.

Connect

Sign up for quarterly notifications and issue highlights.
Please wait