Calves and Queens: A Weekend of Farm Tours with City Market
This past weekend we were busy visiting not one, but two farms to kick off the summer season! On Saturday, we visited Butterworks Farm out in Westfield followed by Green Mountain Bee Farm in Fairfax on Sunday. With beautiful weather both days, it was a great way to celebrate the start of summer in VT!
Saturday morning, after our gorgeous drive up to the Northeast Kingdom, we arrived at Butterworks Farm and were greeted by Christine Lazor, the farm manager. Butterworks is a dairy farm and on-farm yogurt operation that produces deliciously creamy yogurt, kefir and heavy cream. They currently have about 30 cows producing milk and believe strongly in raising their cows on a 100% grass-fed diet. Jack and Anne Lazor, Christine’s parents, bought the land back in 1976. Over the past 30 years, they have built the farm and production to what it is today and continue to be leaders in the sustainable farming and organic movement.
After some brief introductions and an overview of the creamery, Christine told us she had a special surprise in store for us, but that it would require some walking. After the long van ride to Westfield, we all agreed a little movement sounded great! So with that, we headed out to the pastures to get up close and personal with the dairy cows. On the way, Christine pointed out all the hay piles of grass that were drying. At the end of the summer, Christine shared that these piles would be shaped and wrapped up into hay bales and eventually given back to the cows as feed—a perfect example of a closed-loop system!
We had some time to visit with the cows before Christine called us over for the big surprise. There in the lush green grass was a sweet, baby calf! Christine said she had been born just that morning and needless to say, she was definitely the best surprise anyone could have hoped for. We scooped her up and with her Mom, Nellie, made the trek back to the milking barn.
We walked around the barn and Christine explained the different milking tools, process and flow of milk. Time flies on the farm and before we knew it, it was lunch time! Anne, had kindly grilled some 100% grass-fed (of course) hamburgers, from their farm, and we enjoyed a delicious BBQ outside. Before heading out, Christine offered us some of their kefir products to enjoy. It was the perfect, refreshing end to a wonderful visit!
On Sunday, we switched gears and went out to Green Mountain Bee Farm for a Meet the Bees class. Michael and Nicole Willard started bee farming about 11 years ago and have never looked back! Like Saturday, it was a picture perfect day and the bees were buzzing around, just as happy as we were that the sun was out and shining bright. To start, Michael explained the different types of honeybees-- the queen, worker and the drone, how they communicate and what their role is in the hive. He then gave an overview of the lifecycle of a honeybee, talked a little bit about commercial bee farming and the relationship to climate change and finished his presentation by showing everyone the different equipment and gear beekeepers use. In the short time together, we covered a lot!
Throughout the presentation, there were a number of thoughtful questions like, how the bees keep warm in the long Vermont winters and what the first steps are in starting your own bee farm. Michael explained during the winter months, the bees in the hive create a cluster around the queen and don’t stop moving, generating a temperature of above 90 °F, truly impressive!
At Green Mountain Bee Farm, they produce raw honey along with a number of skin care products. If you are a current beekeeper, Michael and Nicole also sell queen bees that they bred as well as nuclear starter kits, for aspiring bee farmers. Check out their website here! In addition, Michael is the president of the Vermont Beekeepers Association, they offer a number of classes, and other resources for beginner bee keepers!
After all the bee background, participants had the option to gear up and take a closer look at the hive. These brave souls were able to get a more hands-on perspective, as Michael guided the group through the hive.
To end our day, Nicole brought out a platter of delicious honey-sweetened lemonade and some Green Mountain Bee Farm honey for each participant to take home. It was truly a sweet, bee-autiful day and end to a lovely weekend!