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

Bruce Hennessey, Beth Whiting, and their children

Written By

Beth Whiting

Written on

August 20 , 2013

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. A small herd of a dozen Angus cattle kicked off the birth of Maple Wind Farm, and since then, grass has been our focus as we’ve followed our passion for growing the best possible meats, improving soils, and intensively grazing multiple species.

We are now managing a cattle herd of 120 Angus/Devon crosses, 50 pasture-raised Berkshire Tamworth hogs, 500 layer hens, 2 draft horses, 400 organic turkeys, more than 4,000 pasture-raised broiler chickens, and a 10-acre organic vegetable operation. It all has us quite busy but it’s all part of our integrated pasture management plan. Each animal group has its own job to do, contributing to improving the soils and grazing as nature intended them to. For instance, our pigs root up the soil and reclaim areas on the farm that need to be reseeded and restored. And the poultry provide the soils’ much-needed nitrogen from their manure and cleanse pastures of parasites and flies after the cattle have grazed through; they pick through the cow pies and look for bugs and larvae to keep pests at a manageable level.

By moving our 100-percent grass-fed cattle herd to new pasture every day, we ensure that the grass is eaten at optimal levels of nutrition. We feel that cows raised on 100 percent grass (never any grain) can reach appropriate weight gain in 24 months and be as delicious and tender as conventional beef with the proper attention to forage and seasonality of butchering. This takes time and education on both our part and the part of the customer. But Bruce and I are former educators, so it’s a natural extension of our farm work to teach folks about the benefits while at farmers’ markets, hosting pasture workshops, or speaking at conferences.

As a mother, I appreciate the fact that my children recognize all the items from our farm sitting on their plate at dinner, knowing that it is the healthiest for them and raised in the most natural and sustainable way. Passing a fast-food restaurant with them in the car and hearing them say, “Oh gross, that’s bad meat, Mommy” gives me a small sense of satisfaction that they do understand what we’re doing with our lives (and what maybe they’ll continue into the future).

Below is a favorite grass-fed beef recipe for a busy after-school meal. I love using my crock pot for it!

Maple Wind Farm is located in Huntington, Richmond, and Bolton. An article about its new poultry processing facility can be found here. Find Maple Wind’s products at restaurants, food co-ops, and farmers’ markets. For more information: maplewindfarm.com.

About the Author

Beth Whiting

Beth Whiting

Beth Whiting farms with her husband Bruce Hennessey on Maple Wind Farm.

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