• Editor's Note Fall 2013

    Editor's Note Fall 2013

    It’s a fulsome time to be an eater of local meat in Vermont—or simply a booster of its production. Compared with three years ago, when our last special issue on meat came out, you can now access more products from more farmers growing a wider variety of animals in more varying ways.

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  • Putting the Garden to Bed

    Putting the Garden to Bed

    There are many distractions at this time of year, whether school or watching football or catching up on work and e-mail after an August vacation. But one thing’s for sure: autumn—and winter—are coming, and we need to put our gardens to bed. A little extra work now will help us garden even better next year.

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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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  • Set the Table with Local Meat for a Crowd

    Set the Table with Local Meat for a Crowd

    When you’re committed to eating humanely raised, local meat and you’re getting some friends together for some good eats, chances are you’re not going to throw 15 $20 steaks on your backyard barbecue. We all might like to pretend that we just won the lottery, but it’s no easy feat to blow a whole paycheck serving humane, sustainable food to our nearest and dearest.

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  • Meet the Meat Hubs

    Meet the Meat Hubs

    A year ago, Bryce and Debbie Gonyea were operating a small hog farm in Danville, selling their pigs to Vermont Salumi and private customers, in addition to selling young piglets for families to raise for their own consumption. Bryce had recently retired from three-and-a-half decades in the agricultural insurance business and was creating a stream of retirement income through farming.

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  • Pastured Poultry in Aisle 9

    Pastured Poultry in Aisle 9

    Whiz by it on Route 2 between Richmond and Bolton and you might think it was an abandoned rail car, a housing unit for migrant farm workers, or a storage shed. Bland and inconspicuous, the boxy structure doesn’t look like it has the potential to re-shape Vermont’s local food scene (or at least make it easier to purchase and cook pastured chicken).

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  • Über-Pastured Pork

    Über-Pastured Pork

    There are 70 acres in West Topsham where about 400 pigs harvest their own kale (and garlic, when they’re feeling under the weather), go for rides in mini-vans, and bathe in mountain wallows. They’re about to stop that mini-van habit, but more on that later.

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  • Randall Cattle

    Randall Cattle

    At the beginning of the 20th century, as Halley’s Comet graced Vermont skies, Samuel Randall could be found tending a herd of lineback cattle on his farm in Sunderland, Vermont. The type of cattle he kept had fallen out of favor as farmers began selectively breeding for specific traits and standardization. But over decades—until the 1980s—and in virtual isolation, Samuel and his son Everett unknowingly preserved this “landrace” herd.

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  • Cannibalizing our Compatriots

    Cannibalizing our Compatriots

    Vermont has big farms and little farms, organic and conventional growers, pasture-based and feedlot operations, old farmers and young farmers, entrepreneurs and large agribusinesses. In these Green Mountains and across this country we have a complex food production system, with each agricultural business doing what it can to stay viable and profitable.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Grass=Solar Energy=Good Meat

    Farmers' Kitchen—Grass=Solar Energy=Good Meat

    My husband, Bruce Hennessey, and I moved to an end-of-the-road, hilltop farm in Huntington in 1999 for a “close-to-the-mountains” farming opportunity. The hilltop nature of our 136 acres made it challenging for growing crops or making hay (steep, too many rocks, some wet areas), so grazing livestock seemed like the answer to keeping the pastures open, fertilized, and healthy.

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  • Last Morsel—A Boost for On-Farm Slaughter

    Last Morsel—A Boost for On-Farm Slaughter

    Traditionally, farm animals in Vermont were slaughtered and butchered outside, in the open air. Today, all animals that are sold as meat must be slaughtered and processed in inspected facilities. But some Vermonters who raise animals for their own personal consumption prefer on-farm slaughter to taking their critters to an unfamiliar slaughterhouse.

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Randall Cattle

Vermont’s Official State Heritage Breed

Randall cattle grazing

Written By

Meg Lucas

Written on

August 20 , 2013

At the beginning of the 20th century, as Halley’s Comet graced Vermont skies, Samuel Randall could be found tending a herd of lineback cattle on his farm in Sunderland, Vermont. The type of cattle he kept had fallen out of favor as farmers began selectively breeding for specific traits and standardization. But over decades—until the 1980s—and in virtual isolation, Samuel and his son Everett unknowingly preserved this “landrace” herd.

A landrace animal is one that is bred in, and adapted to, its environment. Randall cattle—bred in Vermont and named the state’s official heritage breed in 2006—are “all-purpose,” meaning they’re suited to more than one task around a farm, and therefore can act as draft animals, dairy cows, and/or meat cattle.

In 1985, Everett Randall passed away and the fate of the herd came into question as it was split and sold with the intention of preserving the breed. As Halley’s Comet passed by the earth again in 1986, it became apparent that the largest segment of the herd was in trouble. Tennessee resident Cynthia Creech learned there was a need for someone to come to the rescue, so she bought the 15 cattle and relocated them to Tennessee. According to the Randall Cattle Registry, “Without Cynthia’s timely intervention, it is doubtful that the Randall cattle would be here today.” She now lives in Dutchess County, New York, and 300 Randalls are now living in 15 states and Canada.

Newhall Farm in Reading is one farm in Vermont that is partnering with Cynthia to help bring the Randall back from being what the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has deemed “America’s most critically endangered bovine breed.”  We met up with the herd on a 94-degree July afternoon in a small pasture surrounded by lush woods. Here the cattle roam freely on grass, living and breeding in a natural setting with little human interference, ensuring the breed’s genetic integrity. The size of the herd at Newhall is currently a little more than 25. At this point they have “no job,” says Linda Fondulas, the co-director with her husband Ted of the Newhall estate, where the farm is located. But the plan is to expand the herd and to produce rose veal from calves that are not confined and are raised on pasture on their mother’s milk.

Halley’s Comet is due for its next visit in 2061, and thanks to the efforts of countless individuals, Randall cattle will likely be grazing beneath its brilliant light.
For more information on the history, progress, and breeding of the Randall, visit Cynthia Creech’s page, cynthiasrandallcattle.com or the Randall Cattle Registry, randallcattleregistry.org. For more information on Newhall Farm, see newhallfarmvt.com.

Photo by Barbi Schreiber

About the Author

Meg Lucas

Meg Lucas

Co-publisher Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine

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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.

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