By Katherine Lazarus
PITTSFORD — Vermont’s idyllic countryside has a way of enticing out-of-staters. Just ask Mason Jarboe, 27, and Kasey King, 32, who left their 70-hour work weeks and small apartment in New York City in September 2019 to move to Pittsford, Vermont, and open Rose Valley Farm.
The couple were opera singers in the city — they met on the job — but were ready to start a farm and, one day, open a restaurant since Jarboe is a Michelin-star chef and King has also worked in restaurants on the service side, jobs they had in the city while also singing.
Jarboe and King moved to the Brandon area because of work with friends Joshua and Hillary Collier, owners of Brandon’s Barn Opera, who have “moved a good eight or 10 people here,” said King, who is originally from Brigantine, New Jersey.
As for Rose Valley Farm, King and Jarboe started from scratch — buying goats (that they since sold), chickens (that they still have), and buying seeds, fencing and gardening supplies to start their rather unique crops: berries and flowers to make flavored jams, jellies and syrups.
They sell their homemade goods at the Brandon Farmers’ Market, the Rutland Farmers’ Market and online.
“We’ve found there’s this connection between environmentalism and local food sources and the arts. There seems to be an intersection of people who appreciate those things deeply,” King said. “We love food, doing things as sustainably as we can, and we are artists at heart — from the beginning we nicely, thoughtfully labeled things” in their vast gardens.
The couple makes jellies and jams with their signature rose, hibiscus, vanilla and lavender. They make a variety of other products, including: “Sip of Sunshine” mustard that is made with Lawson’s IPA, Jarboe’s “pride and joy”; syrups like their chamomile rosehip; dilly beans and pickles; and seasonal items such as the ramps butter they sold this past June.
Their most popular products are the strawberry lemon jam and the mustard. “We want to make fresh foods as well, but for now it’s all prepared,” said Jarboe, a native of Fort Worth, Texas.
“I want to make floral foods because there are so many edible flowers out there. Hopefully one day our land will have lots of roses,” said King. The farm currently has a wildflower pollinator garden, chamomile, echinacea, mint, tulips, daffodils, alliums, garlic, chives and lilacs. “We’re focusing on building our perennials,” said Jarboe.
Items that they do not have enough of or do not grow on their 1.5-acre farm, they source locally from the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op, Dutchess Farm in Castleton, and Paul Mazza’s Farm in Essex Junction.
Rose Valley sells its goods at the Brandon Farmers’ Market on Fridays from 2-6 p.m. on the first Friday of the month and from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. the other Fridays. They also sell at the Vermont Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. in Rutland. Other than that, the couple offers a virtual farm stand online where customers can pay online and pick up the goods at their farm or at the farmers markets.
They are selling about 200 jars of jams and jellies each month.
As they expand their farm operations, they have not forgotten their love of opera; King and Jarboe performed at Barn Opera last September and plan to be part of upcoming shows there again.
“We can do [the farm] and we can perform and have the best of everything,” said King.
They are also envisioning a farm-to-table restaurant sometime in their future. “We’re looking for a brick-and-mortar spot with a commercial kitchen and a retail front. We’re hoping to have something like that in the next year,” said King.
“We want to do an ‘our-farm-to-our-table’ restaurant,” added Jarboe. As they look at locations, Brandon is high on the list. “We’d love to be in Brandon, but Rutland is more reasonable,” King said of real estate prices.
As they decide, Rose Valley Farm continues to create unique flower flavors from the kitchen of their 1880 home. “We want to give people something special they haven’t seen before,” King said, “that also happens to be delicious.”