By Elizabeth Bassett | The Charlotte News
Hop aboard a metaphorical bike ride across Charlotte to gather local fixin’s for dinner, a 21st century hunter-gatherer experience.
I pedal no farther than the farm stand at Philo Ridge Farm, 2766 Mt. Philo Road. Less than a mile from home, I hit the jackpot as the former Foote Farm has transformed into a diversified farm in its first summer of production.
“I just ate the most wonderful bread from the outdoor wood-fired oven at Philo Ridge Farm,” Michael Krasnow told me. Perhaps that’s why there were no loaves left when I arrived at 6 p.m.
“I had some of their bacon and it was fabulous,” echoed Frances Foster.
“Lauren Lees bakes bread in our wood-fired oven once or twice a week,” says Vera Simon-Nobes, education and events manager at Philo Ridge. “Lauren joined the farm team this summer from Mendocino County, California, where she worked on a diversified apple farm. Lauren’s bread uses 100% Nitty Gritty Grain Company flour from just down the road. The bread is long fermented with wild yeast (sourdough) and is baked in the wood-fired masonry oven that Michael [Haulenbeek] built last summer. There’s not a regular schedule for when Lauren bakes, but if you’re lucky enough to see ‘fresh bread’ on our sign, stop by!”
Michael Haulenbeek is the farm manager at Philo Ridge. A dairy farm since 1840, the farm now has livestock—lamb, meat chickens, heirloom pigs and laying ducks—and orchards and gardens. They also have community events—the first was the Farm to Ballet in August.
“The farm stand has been a fun experiment,” Vera says. “We have a little bit of a lot, so aren’t very consistent in what we can offer. There is a clipboard where you can share what you would like to see in the future. This will help us plan for next year!”
The list of items sold this year includes bacon, sausage, pork chops, whole pasture-raised chickens, green beans, potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, summer squash, kale, beets, corn, fresh bread, bouquets, basil, cantaloupe, apples and yarn from the flock of sheep. To date only the garlic is certified organic. Meat is non-GMO and raised without hormones or antibiotics. Coming soon—100% grass-fed lamb.
I purchase some bacon and pedal on. I still need bread for BLTs (L&T from my own garden). The smell of baking bread pulls me up the rise to Pizza on Earth where I somehow resist buying a pizza. With pain de campagne onboard I continue toward Adam’s Berry Farm on Bingham Brook Road.
An important detour, but not today, is Stony Loam Farm where for many years we enjoyed a CSA share. Then our kids grew up and moved away, and now our veggie garden feeds us all summer. I also know I can get Dave Quickel’s produce at local markets in a pinch.
After years of flooding in Burlington’s Intervale, Adam’s Berry Farm moved to high ground in Charlotte. With help from the Vermont Land Trust and the Farmland Access Program, the organic farm relocated to 985 Bingham Brook Road in 2013. Their strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are joined by kiwis, gooseberries, currants, rhubarb, elderberries and a young and eclectic orchard that includes peaches, pears, plums, quince, cherry, persimmon and cherries. Every year should be better!
On the other side of Bingham Brook Road is Fat Cow Farm owned and operated by Peter Trono and his son Zach. The quaint-looking shop was closed, but I could see freezers stocked with meat (beef and pork, I believe) as well as a small kitchen and counter for a meal.
Charlotte Berry Farm is next on my route. The farm is in transition with new owners. Blueberries were the primary 2015 crop with more to come in 2016. I have it on good authority that the blueberry smoothies are “most excellent,” and the owners are very supportive of the Town Link Trail!
Pelkey’s never disappoints with 10 acres of pick-your-own blueberries, an expansive view and, if you are lucky, blueberry pies. Since 2001 Pelkey’s Charlotte Village Winery has been producing wines from Vermont fruits as well as grapes with wine tastings daily.
Dale Knowles stocked a summer farm stand at the corner of Ferry and Lake roads, but on a mid-September weekday all was quiet. I continued north on Lake Road to Old Homestead Farm or Fortin’s Little Veggie Barn. Two signs grace the small shed where pumpkins and gourds spill across the grass. If you need a jack-o-lantern, this is the place.
Looping up to Greenbush Road I stopped at an unnamed farm stand a half mile north of the WWII monument. Coolers and shelves overflowed with summer produce and a hint of fall—butternut squash. The sweet corn was delicious!
The last stop on the way home was the LaBerge farm on Lime Kiln Road. When the sign is posted on Mt. Philo Road, make a detour, especially if you plan to make corn chowder.
One last word about dessert from Michael Krasnow:
“Don’t forget free-range Vermont dairy creemees at Cookie Love in the Hollow (even if it is in the next town)!”