• Updated Website Address: LocalBanquet.org
  • Looking Back on a Decade of Maple Innovation
  • Listening to Farmers’ Voices in the Ecosystem Services Discussion
  • Updated Website Address: LocalBanquet.org

    We've changed our website. Please update your bookmarks to LocalBanquet.org LocalBanquet.org is where you will now find the latest Local Banquet stories, a new Story of the Day update feature, features from the archives, and information on how to contribute to Local Banquet if you're interested in writing about Vermont agriculture. 

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  • Looking Back on a Decade of Maple Innovation

    Back in 2007, Local Baquet ran an article by Bonnie Hudspeth on maple innovation and production in Vermont. Since then, maple production in Vermont has tripled to 1.8 million gallons a year and innovation seems to have entered a new golden (or perhaps amber) age. We did a quick maple innovation news round up for 2018 / 2019 to help everyone keep up with the some of the trends. 

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  • Listening to Farmers’ Voices in the Ecosystem Services Discussion

    In 2015, the USDA funded a project for UVM researchers to engage in discussions with Vermont farmers about the idea of being paid for ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are things farmers do that improve the environment for everyone, a common example is grass-based farms capturing carbon in the soil as a way to combat climate change. Some services happen naturally through sustainable farming, others take more of an incentive to implement, and either way some policy makers believe that farmers shoudl be compensated for their contribution. 

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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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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 ties into larger questions of sustainability and the future of our food supply.