On a warm and sunny Friday afternoon, with the landscape speckled in hues of red and orange, 14 City Market Members and staff jumped on a bus, and hit Route 7 to make our way south to Addison County. The area is known for many farms and food producers, and our group was excitedly headed to visit goats, a creamery, an orchard, and a cidery. It’s no secret that cheese and apples go together, and we got to see them both at their sources.
Our first stop was Twig Farm, a 40-acre goat farm and cheese-making facility in West Cornwall Vermont. It’s a small operation, owned by husband and wife duo Michael Lee and Emily Sunderman with only one other employee, Helen (in addition to their roughly 40 goats, of course). They make a few different kinds of goat, cow, and mixed cheeses including a tomme, square, washed rind, mixed milk drum, fuzzy, crawford, a long-aged old goat. The cheese are aged from 60 days to 11 months, depending on the type, for a wide variety of flavor profiles.
The cheeses are all aged in a cellar on-site and the fermentation process is unique to any other cheese maker due to the very specific set of conditions and environmental microbes in the air. Helen and Michael agree that cheese-making relies on a precious balance of science and art, and the proof is in the pudding. While they are not typically open to the public, you can find their cheese at City Market and on their online shop. Seriously, give them a try!
About 20 minutes west lies Champlain Orchards, right on the edge of Lake Champlain. The orchard slopes upwards into the hills, and the top of the Pick-Your-Own patch opens to a sprawling view of the Adirondacks. Started by Bill Suhr and Andrea Scott in 1998, the endeavor was focused on apples. While their values to care for the environment and feed their community hasn’t changed in the last 19 years, they’ve developed their farm to be much more of a diversified fruit operation. Now growing berries, peaches, plums, and pears in addition to the apples, not to mention the addition of the farm bakery and cideries, the farm is in operation all year long. Our tour was led by none other than Bill himself and is was impossible to miss his passion for the orchard. (He even called the apples his 10,000 children!) When the photo below was taken, he was explaining how to decipher the story of the apple’s life over the past year after plucking it out of a bin on the wagon headed for the packing line.
And if apples are left to age a bit longer, you may find yourself at Shacksbury making hard cider! The team at Shacksbury source their apples from orchards in Addison county (sometimes with the help of Michael Lee—remember him from earlier) as well as old world varieties from Europe. Founded by friends David Dolginow and Colin Davis, they say that “At Shacksbury, we believe cider can, and should, be daring and complex. From gnarled trees on New England farmsteads to Old World orchards in England and Spain, our cider will change the way you think about this amazing fruit.”
Indeed, with a tour and tasting led by General Manager Kim Beaty, our group was able to taste the wild flavors of pressed apple juice at various points in the fermenting process. We sampled their stand-by flavors, but the crowd favorite was the Spanish-style basque cider and their VT alternative, named Arlo. Basque cider is traditionally poured from a tall height to create a foam and is as much about the presentation as it is the taste!
Here at City Market, we are dedicated to strengthening the local food system, sharing knowledge, and providing educational opportunities for our community. Coming along on a tour is a great way to ask questions in a hands-on environment and learn more than you ever thought you could! If you’re interested in learning more about the farms we buy from, you can check out our Vendor Profile page here. Be on the lookout for more farm tours, visits, and workshops by checking out our calendar here!