Adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts may settle in the Green Mountain state for the rugged landscape and lifestyle, but it’s also an ideal backdrop for modern-day farmers. While remaining true to the area’s longstanding agricultural traditions, today’s growers and makers are forging a new path, producing premium products that have planted Vermont on the map as a culinary destination.
With everything from naturally raised chicken to artisan cheese at their fingertips, Spruce Peak chefs are creating evolving, seasonal menus that celebrate the farm to fork movement. Here, we spotlight some of the local farms that will fill your plate with the taste of Vermont this summer.
Jericho Settlers Farm
Born and raised in nearby Jericho, Christa Alexander learned from an early age to appreciate homegrown food. “My parents had huge vegetable gardens, so eating right out of them was the norm,” she says. But it wasn’t until 1995, when she moved away for the first time and found herself shopping at the grocery store that she understood what it takes to cultivate quality ingredients. “Once I started to learn more about how food was produced in an industrial way, and the ethics behind how it’s grown, it was appalling to me,” Alexander says.
During a four-year tenure in the Pacific Northwest, she met her husband, Mark Fasching, while they both worked as field biologists in fish and wildlife management. But she felt a pull to return to her Green Mountain roots, so the couple headed back east. They bought a house just miles from where Alexander grew up, and began growing their own produce and raising pigs and chickens for family and friends.
In 2002, Alexander and Fasching opened a roadside farmstand, marking the beginning of Jericho Settlers Farm. Four years later, the couple left their jobs to work full-time for the thriving farm, which eventually expanded across 200 acres, and now produces more than 75 types of organic vegetables.
And while those veggies are ridiculously tasty, Alexander’s passion for farming is about more than just fabulous food. “It’s about supporting a landscape and a community and a whole network of businesses that rely on agriculture,” she says.
Triple J Pastures
John and Jen Belanger, who met in Boston where they worked as restaurant servers, had long dreamed of moving to Vermont to raise animals and grow food responsibly. In 2018, they finally manifested that goal when they purchased Triple J Pastures farm in Irasburg. (The third “J” stands for their dog Juicy.) “We were fed-up with the mass-produced food industry where no one knows where the food comes from or who raised it,” John says. “Part of our inspiration was how great it is to know your farmer.”
Today, the husband-and-wife team supply legumes, whole pigs, and eggs to The Lodge’s restaurants, where they also work part-time as servers. Now, they truckare immensely gratified to see their food transformed into stunning meals. “Our yolks are a bright red-orange, almost like a glowing sun on the plate—rich, vibrant, and with a flavor unlike any other,” John explains. “When I drop off a dish at a table, making the connection that I’m the farmer that grew it—wow.”
Jasper Hill Farm
Years ago, brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler and their wives, Victoria and Angie, went on a mission to find meaningful work in a place they loved. In 1998, when they purchased the Greensboro-based Jasper Hill Farm (near Lake Caspian, where the Kehler family had vacationed for more than a century), it hadn’t seen cows in nearly 40 years. But the brothers had a vision of revamping the small-scale former dairy farm to make top of the line products. Today, the creamery and an impressive cave aging space put forth award-winning, artisan cheeses.
“We’re trying to propel high-value cheese into metropolitan areas and then draw those resources back into rural areas,” says SolsticeZoe Brickley, Jasper Hill Farm’s director of marketing. “What’s cool about our relationship with Spruce Peak is that it has world-class restaurants that also happen to be in our backyard.”
Misty Knoll Farms
In the early 1980s, John Palmer, then an electrical engineer for IBM, began raising turkeys in his basement as part of his daughter’s 4-H project. Little did he know at the time that he was embarking on what would become a second career as a poultry farmer. But as he started giving away the turkeys to family and friends, the feedback was consistent: Palmer’s ultra-flavorful birds tasted unlike any other.
For the next decade, Palmer grew his turkey side hustle until he retired from IBM. By then, he had purchased a 412-acre property in New Haven, Vermont, named it Misty Knoll Farms, and hired his nephew, Rob Litch, to shovel manure to help pay for college.
When Litch graduated from the University of Vermont in 1992, he surprised even himself when he decided to become the second full-time Misty Knoll employee. “I always thought I was going to work on Wall Street, but I ended up on ‘Turkey Lane,’” Litch says.
Happily, he has found his role as an owner of the family farm to be deeply rewarding. Misty Knoll is known for naturally raised, antibiotic-free turkeys and chickens that are fed grain without animal byproducts. “There’s a significant amount of pride in saying that we’ve been successful as farmers,” Litch says, adding that there is pride, too, simply in being here in Vermont. “We’re fortunate to be in a state that [fosters] a community of farmers and consumers that support each other.”