Almost exactly a month after my trip to Burlington, Vermont, I finally combed through all of my pictures and narrowed them down to a select few. And now it’s recap tiiiime!
I left for Burlington, Vermont early Sunday morning on October 8 and by 10:30 a.m. the following Tuesday, I was back in Charlotte. It was a quick trip, but a gorgeous one!
Visiting Vermont in the fall is a dream. The foliage is stunning and pops of the most vibrant reds, oranges and yellows made me wish Charlotte would hurry up and realize it was fall already when I returned home. (Thankfully Charlotte got the memo last weekend.)
I was invited to Vermont by Stonyfield Organic to learn more about the importance of organics and organic farming and after a quick flight to Washington, D.C. and another to Burlington, I found myself in Vermont a little after lunchtime on Sunday. I was greeted by sunny skies and cool breezes, colorful leaves and rolling hills. Unfortunately Sunday’s sun was the only sun I’d see during my visit, but it was a beautiful welcome to the state and sneaking peeks at Lake Champlain as the sun was setting was nothing short of breathtaking.
The trip officially began about 20 minutes after I checked into my hotel room at Hotel Vermont, so I had just enough time to throw on a sweater and check in with Ryan before heading down to the lobby. We were greeted by the two-person PR team for Stonyfield (yep, only two of them – Stonyfield employs around 350 people and I definitely thought the company was much bigger) and after emailing with Kristina and Mairead for so long (years!), it was so nice to finally meet them in person. They planned a meet-and-greet event at Dedalus, a local wine and cheese shop, and the space was warmly lit and incredibly cozy.
Our group spent a solid two hours introducing ourselves to each other and learning more about our blogging pasts, ambitions, families and more. It was such a relaxed, laidback way to ease into the trip which was wonderful. So often blogging trips are go, go, go from the minute you step off the plane, so this informal kickoff was such a treat! I had plenty of time to meet the six additional bloggers on the trip and loved learning more about all of them. Blogging for a living can feel like a strange job in my day-to-day life and I cannot overstate how nice it is to connect with people who do what I do (or something very similar) in real life.
After our mini cocktail hour, we boarded the bus back to the hotel and got ready for dinner at Juniper, a farm-to-plate inspired restaurant that focuses on local ingredients. Our private room overlooked Lake Champlain and we couldn’t resist sipping our drinks out on the terrace before our meal.
Over a three-course meal served family style that included the creamiest pumpkin soup, pillowy gnocchi, fork-tender chicken and perfectly sweet apple tarts, we learned more about organic farming practices, the benefits of choosing organic and the initiatives Stonyfield takes to help conventional dairy farmers switch to organic dairy farming. While I knew about the issue of pesticides, synthetic hormones and chemicals in conventional farming, I didn’t realize that organic foods are much higher in antioxidants (20-40 percent higher!) and other nutrients. Additionally, scientists have found that soil from organic farms is better at sequestering carbon (a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change) than conventional farms because organic soil has higher concentrations of humic acids. (These are substances in the soil that give soil its brown color and binds to the soil, making it more fertile and allowing it to retain water while assisting plants in nutrient absorption.)
Since we had a very full day ahead of us on Monday, after dinner and dessert, we all said our goodbyes and headed back to our hotel rooms where I tossed and turned but eventually fell asleep a little after midnight.
Our group was up and ready for the day a little after 7 a.m., decked out in rain jackets and wellies since the forecast told us to expect nothing but rain and clouds all day long. Unfortunately the forecast proved correct and we spent all day Monday with our hoods up and our cameras protected under ponchos and layers.
A one-hour drive northwest from Burlington brought us to Green Wind Farm, one of the family farms that supplies organic milk to Stonyfield.
We met Julie who owns the organic farm with her husband and right away we could see the passion she has for farming, her cows and cultivating high-quality pasture for her animals to graze. Because her cows are organic, they’re required to graze on pasture at least 120 days per year in addition to having year-round access to the outdoors. As part of this, her cows rotate through different grazing areas (paddocks) every day, each one saturated with lush grasses and plants. This method of farming allows the cows to feed themselves and fertilize their pastures naturally, resulting in less fossil-fuel consumption, less erosion, less air and water pollution and greater soil fertility. I was absolutely fascinated to learn more about the pasture the cows eat and on Green Wind Farm, the pasture is saturated with a myriad of plants. While the cows have preferences (they love dandelion which is a great source of vitamin C and stimulates liver activity), they will often gravitate toward different plants in the pasture depending on how they are feeling.
This just reiterated in my mind the power of the foods we eat and the way they can help and heal our bodies. During our visit to Green Wind Farm, we talked a lot about the health of organic dairy cows versus conventional dairy cows and I was shocked to learn that organic cows live twice as long and rarely seem to get sick. Organic cows cannot be treated with synthetic hormones and antibiotics which are both frequently given to non-organic farm animals to change their reproductive cycles and speed up their growth. It was really interesting for me to hear from multiple dairy farmers about the dramatic shift in their cow’s health when they switched to organic farming and pasture grazing.
Once we were officially too wet to keep trudging through the mud, Julie invited us inside her home for the most incredible homemade brunch.
Julie and her husband live in a farmhouse that was built in the 1800s and served a comforting spread of hot coffee with the best creamer I’ve ever had, fresh-from-the-oven bread with a thick slab of butter, cheesy egg casserole and a pickled beet salad. I don’t think I was the only one who couldn’t resist filling my plate more than once and loved everything. With our stomachs full and caffeine kicking in, we were ready for our next adventure and headed off to Windy Hill Farm, another family-owned organic farm that supplies milk to Stonyfield. Windy Hill is a larger farm with a herd of approximately 100 beautiful Holstein cows and even though it was pouring during our visit to Windy Hill, somehow we still had a good time!
We made it back to our hotel with just enough time to shower and change before we were off to a farm-to-table dinner featuring a spread of delicious organic produce from Philo Ridge Farm. The farm is owned by husband-wife duo Peter and Diana who purchased a run-down conventional dairy farm to save it from ruin. They transformed the farm into a fully-functioning organic farm complete with a stunning farmhouse they are currently using for organic farming education and community events. Diana was once a student of Gary Hirshberg, the founder of Stonyfield and shares his passion for organic farming. Gary actually joined us for dinner which was really amazing. (For my fellow NPR podcast lovers, you may recognize his name from his recent feature on How I Built This.) Gary was really interested in our thoughts on organic farming and choosing organic products; what information surprised us about organic farming after our farm tours, what roadblocks stand in our way from purchasing organics (the resounding answer here was price) and more. I felt honored to be included in such a lively, honest and informative discussion.
We arrived back at our hotel just before midnight and I’m pretty sure all of us crashed hard, especially since a number of us at pre-5 a.m. wakeup calls the next day. It was a whirlwind trip, but a wonderful one! Thank you so much to Stonyfield for including me!
Stonyfield Organic Yogurt Giveaway
And now for a giveaway!! I’m partnering with Stonyfield to give away three months of FREE yogurt! One PBF reader will receive coupons to stock up on a wide variety of Stonyfield yogurt, whether you prefer their organic whole milk Greek yogurt, 100% Grassfed yogurt, soy yogurt, YoBaby or YoKids yogurts (Chase is still 100 percent obsessed with the mango YoBaby yogurt) or want to try their double cream yogurt (it truly tastes like dessert)! To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite kind of Stonyfield yogurt or one reason why you believe it is important to choose organic food when possible.
I will randomly select a winner next Friday, November 17 at 7 a.m. (EST), when the giveaway closes. (U.S. entries only, please.) Good luck!