BRATTLEBORO — Flowers, heirloom apple trees, baby animals, dairy cows, vegetables, maple syrup — and most of all, the farmers who produce these wonders — will be visited by guests who take the Strolling of the Heifers' Farm Tour on Sunday, June 5.
Five unique farms are participating this year. The Scott Farm specializes in apples — 110 varieties of heirloom apples — and other fruit. The Bunker Farm is a family-run business selling pasture-raised meat and poultry, plus flowers and maple syrup. The Robb Family Farm has been a working dairy farm for over 100 years and is now specializing in maple syrup and grass-fed beef. The Deer Ridge Farm specializes in flowers. The Franklin Family Farm milks 60 organic cows.
"When I was working to set the farm tours up, I wanted people to experience all aspects of Vermont agriculture," said organizer Judy Fink. "An orchard, a dairy farm, vegetables, flowers and meat. It lets people get a snapshot of what small family farms are like. Also, what I think is really special is that the farmers have interesting stories to tell about why they farm and their connection to the land. That's what people like — to interact with the farmers and find out what it's like to live on the farm."
Each of the farms is giving two one-hour tours. They are offered at 9:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. This schedule allows sufficient time between tours to travel from one farm to the next. Not all times are available at all farms. Because space on each tour is limited, visitors are asked to register in advance. The registration form can be found at www.strollingoftheheifers.com/farmtour. Directions are on the Stroll Web site, or visitors can program their GPS.
The Bunker Farm in Dummerston sits on 169 acres of conserved land. The two families that run it — two sisters and their husbands — have diversified into four lines of operation: pasture-raised meat and poultry, annual and perennial flowers, maple syrup, and community outreach and education.
The tour will include a pasture walk to visit the animals, a tour of the greenhouse and vegetable fields, and an explanation of the farm's wood-fired maple syrup operation. Visitors are welcome to purchase farm-raised chicken, pork, beef, flowers and maple syrup. The farmers are Noah Hoskins, Helen O'Donnell, Mike Euphrat, and Jen O'Donnell.
The Scott Farm in Dummerston is managed by Zeke Goodband, and consists of 571 acres. The farm has 23 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a recorded history dating back to George Washington's first term as president.
Since 1995, the farm has been owned by The Landmark Trust USA, a non-profit organization committed to historic preservation.
Goodband will discuss heirloom apples, orchard ecology, and grafting. The farm stand will be open and orchard-related items will be available for purchase.
The Robb Family Farm in West Brattleboro has been under cultivation for more than 100 years. Currently, two generations of Robbs — Helen and Charles Robb St., Charles Robb Jr. and Karen Robb — are the farm's owners and stewards. The family is currently focusing on two areas: maple syrup and grass-fed beef. The cattle are pastured and are not fed any grain.
There are 3,200 maple tree taps, and the milk room is now a candy kitchen where the maple cream, candy, sugar and added value maple products are made. The tour will include the farm's meat and maple operations. The farm store will be open, and maple products and meat will be available for purchase.
Deer Ridge Farm in Guilford is operated by Jerry Smith and Susan Peters, who invite visitors to view a wide array of flowers, watch honeybees doing their important work, taste and compare flavors of maple syrup, ask questions and learn about cut flowers, maple syrup, raspberries, strawberries and honey production. Maple syrup and candy, and flower and vegetable starts will be available for sale. Children can plant sunflower seeds to take home.
The Franklin Farm in Guilford is a diversified family farm operated by David and Mary Ellen Franklin, with their son, John, who milk 60 certified organic cows as members/owners of the Organic Valley Cooperative. They also make wood-fired maple syrup, raise a few pigs, and keep 100 laying hens.
The farm tour will include a walk in the pasture to meet the cows, and a chance to learn how their summer diet makes their milk taste so delicious. Participants will see how the calves are raised, and will learn about organic dairy management. The farm store will be open, with fresh eggs and maple syrup available for purchase.
"I love the farm tour day," Fink said. "I find it exciting and invigorating. It's a happy day. All the farms are beautiful. And this is just a snapshot of agriculture in southern Vermont. If people wanted to see more farms they could spend weeks here. There are cheese farms, alpaca farms, and vegetable farms all over the place. These are the only ones we've scheduled tours for."
For information on all Stroll Weekend events, visit www.StrollingoftheHeifers.com.
Joyce Marcel can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.