By: Lisa Griffin
We didn’t follow the yellow brick road to the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, but team Murray’s had an amazing journey. Our merry band of mongers had a fun, coffee-fueled drive up to Vermont. Thanks to our friends at Jasper Hill Farms, we met baby piglets that worked their way into our hearts (and the scent, into our van). Surprise does not even begin to describe our reaction to the bear cub darting across the road 5 feet in front of our moving vehicle. The most memorable part of the drive was the beauty of Vermont itself. Living in a city like New York, it is easy to forget the power of nature. The number of trees was awe-inspiring, like driving through a rolling sea of green.
After a lovely night in Burlington, we were off to Shelbourne Farms. The vibe on the day of the festival was one of palpable excitement. We were so excited to meet the cheesemakers and other producers attending. The best part was — they were just as excited to meet and talk to us!
Once at the Festival, one of my responsibilities as a volunteer was helping the producers load in their amazing food and set up their booths. To my delight, I had the honor of helping Louisa from Big Picture Farm set up. Big Picture Farm’s goat caramels are definitely one of our favorite sweet treats at the Bleecker store, and Louise was only too gracious to share some stories about her dog Elvis, her fantastic goats, and the wonderful portraits she has drawn of them all. You can taste the love in the caramels that she shared with us that day.
I also had the privilege of spending some time with Joan, one of the founders of Effie’s Oatcakes. I’m not going to lie, I am personally responsible for finishing off an entire package of oatcakes in one sitting. So, I was only too happy to talk about all of the cheeses I love pairing with these buttery, sweet, and salty snacks. She also let me have a sneak-peak taste of some of their new cakes coming out for the holidays. I’m already dreaming about the future cheese and oatcake bliss to come.
Once the festival was underway, it was a great day of tasting and talking about cheese with the producers at Jasper Hill, Consider Bardwell, and Vermont Butter and Cheese. It was wonderful to meet the folks at Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps and Vermont Smoke and Cure as well. There are so many wonderful artisanal and farmstead foods being made. I definitely came away with a new appreciation for the amazing products that we have the privilege of selling.
I grew up in Los Angeles, and am a New York transplant, so spending some time on a farm and appreciating the amount of time, work and love that goes into the cheeses and the other foods from Vermont was invaluable to me. On the way home, we stopped at a farm that sells their products to the public. When you walk in the sign reads, “Welcome! Our store’s SELF-SERVICE and on the HONOR SYSTEM.” The farmers and artisans take such pride in their animals and their products. It is an honor for us to be a part of that process and pass that respect on to those with whom we share the fruits of their labor.