By Brooke Geery
It’s harvest season in Vermont and if you have a garden, you’re inundated with produce. It’s been a bountiful season for tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, beans and many other local Vermont veggies and fruits, and it is time to reap the rewards of all that raking, weeding and shoveling. But if you’ve got a black thumb, no yard of your own, or you’re just visiting, you might be suffering from a bit of garden envy these days. Never fear! Nature’s bounty is available to all, and a great place to find it is at one of the many farm stands dotting the Green Mountains’ highways, byways and dirt roads.
Farm stands are unique, friendly places where the locals swap dinner ideas and commiserate about the changes in weather. Getting there is half of the adventure and a proper mission will take you down and up roads you’d never otherwise notice. If you’re looking for a great product or a fantastic souvenir, farm stands have it. They’re also a worthy tour stop if you’re looking for an excuse to get out and see something new. That’s how we selected the following locales, embarking on a mother-daughter Saturday for the ages.
Beginning in Middletown Springs and ending in Killington, we hit eight shops — four of which were surprises along the way — and the options ran the gamut from roadside, serve-yourself stand to a full-on tourist trap, but they all shared the following characteristics: They are farm adjacent, and sell fresh foods.
Farmer John’s Place Squier Family Farm 12 McNamara Rd, Middletown Springs 802-235-2025
We started our journey as any good Vermont farm tour should — on dirt roads. We rambled through Tinmouth towards our first destination: Farmer John’s Place on the Squier Family Farm. Just before we arrived, the road returned to asphalt. This made the shop convenient to access, in a large, yellow, gambrel roof barn. Out front, huge sunflowers and a hand-painted sign welcomed us to the shop, where Meadow Squier was restocking for the weekend. Meadow owns and operates the farm with her husband, Josh and brother, Wheaton. Business has been slow and steady recently, she said.
“This time of year is a little slow because everyone’s gardens are going gang busters and so they’re trying to keep up,” she said. “There’s always a little lull before foliage and after school starts.”
I was a little surprising to see pineapple for sale when we walked through the door. It has been a crazy year with crazy weather, but it seemed out of place on the 45th Parallel. Squier laughed and explained that they co-order with another small store, and someone there had wanted pineapple. So, Farmer John’s place is stocking the golden treasure as long as it lasts.
The Squier Farm’s specialty is actually grass and hay, which they feed to their own and others’ cattle with an eye on protecting the environment. Inside the store, there’s a lot more than just pineapple. A variety of fresh veggies, maple syrup and homegrown meat are available, as well as preserved items, such as Vermont Pepper Project hot sauce, made from peppers grown right down the road by Alex LiCausi. There’s also a “community” area, where other local growers drop off their excess items, which are offered up for free.
We snagged a couple zucchini, one crop that isn’t quite as fond of the wet weather this summer, and happily handed over $1.75.
VT Mountain Meadows Farm 17 Route 140, Tinmouth 802-558-3939
We continued on our journey, heading South. Less than 10 minutes away, on the edge on Tinmouth and just a few feet from the Wallingford town line, a freshly Amish-built stand stopped us on our way. The building houses the retail arm of VT Mountain Meadows Farm. Inside, Miranda Audy was tending to a display of fresh-picked sweet corn, while her two young sons hung out, eager to help complete our purchase of a few ears. Andy’s husband, Matt, owns the stand along with Kimberly Young of Wallingford, which made its debut this season.
“It’s been good,” Audy said. “People are very pleased that we have local products. I haven’t been able to keep it stocked!”
VT Mountain Meadows Farm’s main crop is hay, but they also grow the tomatoes and peppers on site. For the other products available in the store, they work with other farmers and are able to provide a wide variety of fruits, veggies, syrups, honey and seasonal decorating items too. “We like to support the other local farmers, since we have the space to put it!” Audy said.
In addition to variety, the stand is notable for its setting, with expansive views that make alone make it worth the trip.
Lowell Seward Farm 4180 Sugar Hill Road, East Wallingford
Not all Vermont farm stands are social affairs. In fact, many operate on a serve-yourself, honor-system approach, such as the stand at Lowell Seward Farm in East Wallingford. Located just feet from the intersection of Route 140 and Route 155, this tiny structure is packed with corn, squash and other in-season produce. Purchase on the honor system, just an old milk jug with a slot, and prices are hand-written in Sharpie on the butternut squash. Places like this are a must visit on any good farm stand tour, and you gotta love that there’s no pressure to buy!
Plew Farm 1966 Healdville Road, Mount Holly 802-259-2250
Things were bustling at the Plew Farm farm stand in Mount Holly when we arrived.
“We will most likely hit our 3,000th customer this weekend,” Patti Plew said to the woman checking out in front of us. “Then we’re shooting for four!”
The stand, which is best described as farm-chic, is part gallery, part farm store, part tourist trap, and just one of the outlets where you can buy the Plews’ famous maple syrup. The stand is open daily from noon-6 p.m., and there is no shortage of things to buy, but we settled for a couple of stuffed croissants and happily noshed on them for the rest of the journey, opting to skip the near-by Crowley Cheese factory, located just a few yards down Healdville Road.
Maple Leaf Farm & Garden 950 Route 100-A, Bridgewater Corners (802) 672-6223
From Mount Holly, our trip took us through Ludlow and then back north on Route 100, where we passed by several roadside shops offering ice cream, pottery, jewelry and more. At the junction of 100 and 100-A in West Bridgewater we decided to take the winding and remote 100-A. We were almost to Bridgewater Corners at Route 4 when we spotted Maple Leaf Farm and Garden.
More than just a farm stand, Maple Leaf is also a farm supply store, offering items such as feed and top soil for sale. A rack of fresh garden vegetables is on display out front, surrounded by several pieces of decaying ceramic yard art. Inside, the store is a window to the past, filled with family heirlooms and items such as antique post cards that no one will ever buy. On the outskirts of the nonperishable racks, a variety of cold beverages are available, too.
A younger couple was on duty manning the shop, sharing babysitting duties for their toddler, while locals pulled in and out to grab whatever they might need. A lively discussion about the cattle moving from the upper to lower field was underway, and we opted to just soak in the experience, take a few minutes to pet the old guard dog and let our own pup out of the car, before journeying on for more Vermont culture.
Lincoln Bridge Farms 277 Bridges Rd, Woodstock
When we reached Route 4, it was decision time. Head east and see what Woodstock had to offer, or go back in the direction of Killington, and closer towards Rutland. We opted to keep going, and about 10 minutes later, a small yellow sign next to the covered Lincoln Bridge caught our eye. Any farm stand that requires driving through a covered bridge seemed like a worthy addition to the Vermont farm stand tour, so we obediently followed the arrows and came across a white tent stocked with green beans, peppers, tomatoes, corn, squash, fresh herbs and more.
Another honor-system stand, Lincoln Bridge’s farm stand exemplified the working farm experience. We waited briefly to park, as the farmer himself (part of four generations) was busy moving the earth around with his tractor. He waved and smiled as we got out of our car to survey the offerings.
Low on cash and rich on veggies, we decided to pass on any more purchases and instead took advantage of the lack of local traffic to turn around and head west once again.
Hinterland Organic Farm 3139 US-4, Killington (802) 747-8571
The final stop on our tour, Hinterland, is one that must not be missed. In the fall, live turkeys are penned at the top of the driveway, but it was quieter last weekend. The woman working explained the final cows had just been sent off to slaughter, lamenting that she kind of missed their curious faces. But the circle of life continues, and for human meat-eaters, the freshest-possible home grown, organic beef and pork offered are truly special.
The stand is also stocked with eggs from the farm’s own chickens, and tons of vegetables. We selected a few overgrown heads of garlic to use as seed for next season, as well as two giant pork chops for dinner. The stand is manned daily from noon to 6 p.m., but we were let in on a little secret — there are always products available to buy on the honor system, as long as you have cash!
It was the truly the perfect final stop on our Vermont farm stand tour. If you’re looking for a unique activity this weekend, this time of year is one of the best to create your own.