DUMMERSTON >> While other children dreamt of becoming doctors and ballerinas and astronauts, Elizabeth Wood had dreams of becoming a farmer. Not even her family's good natured warnings of early mornings and cow milking could deter her. She knew what path she wanted to travel.
Originally from the Boston area, Vermont seemed like the perfect place for Wood to start her farm. She had been coming to the Putney area her whole life to visit relatives and knew it she wanted to make a home there. After an apprenticeship on an organic CSA farm and doing some part time gardening work, she moved and in 2002, Wood started New Leaf, using the Community Supported Agriculture model of farming. The CSA model allowed her to start with less capital and make fresh, organic food accessible to people.
Today, the sound of happily grazing goats fills the air of New Leaf. Some nibble on brush while others run, jump, and head-butt each other. Walking through the small herd, Wood adeptly navigates their play. When asked why she added Nigerian Dwarf Goats to her 6 acre vegetable farm she quickly answers, "They are fun." It is clear that she is at home.
The goats may, arguably, be the cutest and loudest attraction of New Leaf but there is so much more the farm has to offer. Every summer the fields fill with strawberries, flowers, herbs, vegetables, melons, and Community Supported Agriculture members, who arrive weekly from late May to early November, to share in the harvest. Over 100 families are members of Wood's CSA, lining the side of the quintessential dirt road that runs along her farm.
CSA members have a choice of going to the farm or picking up at a downtown Brattleboro or Putney location once a week during the 23 week season to pick up their share. Members who chose to head to the farm have the opportunity to feed the goats, pick their own flowers, herbs, greens, strawberries, and rotating crops. The farm offers half shares, full, shares, and double shares, all sized to suit varying family sizes. A full CSA share costs $550, a double share costs $990, and a half share costs $310. All shares include a large variety of vegetables, both familiar and a few that may be new to the member. Pick-your-own is included in each share and is available at the farm any day that it is not raining.
It is clear the Wood loves what she does but the work is not always easy. This is the famr's 15th growing season and in those years she has had many ups and downs. Most recently, she has fought with wet fields and low production years due to the moisture. She plans on putting in underground drainage to prevent future crop loss.
For Wood, the good balances out the struggles. Harvest season brings with it the reward for all of her hard work. "I love September, the great weather, the amazing array of vegetables being harvested. Everything is so big and exciting."
New Leaf is essentially a one-woman show. She does hire three helpers who work less than full-time each season and her husband helps but is not an operator. It is Wood overseeing the 6-acre farm and greeting the many CSA members who come to visit and pick up their share of her labor. The CSA she created to make healthy, organically grown food, accessible, the farm she dreamed of as a child. "People understanding agriculture is something the world needs."