• Central Vermont Farm is aLive

    Newhall Farm in the Alps of Reading, Vermont, gets wired from farm to table with a new on-line presence and virtual store. 

    So, what DO you do with an old dairy? This is a modern age query in the traditional dairy state of Vermont, and when faced with depressed milk prices the answer has been for many to make value-added cheese, but for Newhall Farm of Reading, Vermont, creating new products is the beginning of more than one new business. 

    On some Vermont farms dairy cows transpire into beef steers, boutique chickens produce colorful eggs, and an old apple orchard is revived for the hard cider resurgence. At Newhall Farm the pot is sweetened with the additional production of a dessert ice cider, a relatively new innovation on the beverage scene. Add honeybees for orchard pollination, some pigs that link sausage (pun intended) for selling to neighboring restaurants or inns, and a few dozen sheep which translates to many a demand for lamb chops. With extra rows of lavender in the cutting garden and patches of wild mint, body products reveal themselves. There is, of course, Vermont famous maple syrup from the sugar bush, and let's not forget the bees, for that means honey as well.

    It's a farm-model umbrella that covers several products and businesses, and in 21st century Vermont extending the umbrella spokes is part of the plan--with wiring from Newhall Farm to your table via the World Wide Web. 

    All of these products began as pilot projects and up until now Newhall Farm hasn't given up, as was the original intention, on a single one. "When I arrived at the farm the first product I thought of producing was ice cider," says estate co-director, Linda Fondulas. A niche-market product, ice cider is specially produced with estate apples from Newhall Farm as a private label by Eden Ice Cider Company.  Newhall Farm should be certified organic for apples later this year. "Our orchardist began the certification process the first year my husband, Ted, and I took over. Now here we are: reality moves fast!" 

    Post dairy, Angus cattle became plentiful at Newhall Farm, but now this herd will be culled and the focus will be on reviving the Randall breed of cattle, Vermont's only state heritage breed of cattle, to produce grass-fed and humanely raised veal. Meanwhile heritage breed Berkshire pigs help fulfill some retail markets along with the grass-fed Angus beef. Since they are what they eat, farm manager, Eric Johnson, works on improving the pastures for Newhall Farm's grass-fed enterprise.

    Purchase of neighboring lands with maple sugar stands and a sugarhouse led to the undeniable reason for producing highly demanded pure Vermont maple syrup. Free-run and wood-fired the old-fashioned way plus the discerning taste of a regional terroir translates to a flavor of place of Newhall Farm. "Someone who tasted our syrup at an agricultural fair commented how interesting and delightful it is that syrup from different parts of Vermont taste different! Thankfully they felt Newhall Farm Maple Syrup had an outstanding and delicious flavor of place," chimes Ted.

    In addition raw honey is coming this summer as the beehives grow and are expertly tended by the farm beekeeper. Keeping the bears out will be the next challenge.  

    At this time Newhall Farm will sell all but their meat products on the web store. "We are looking into dry ice packaging," comments Ted, "and there are plans to add a wholesale ordering component as well." Linda feels being in a remote area necessitates an on-line presence, “…if nothing else than to let folks know where they can find our products.”

    It's a mission getting all that is needed to put a new product on a retail shelf. Branding, packaging, marketing, sales, and fulfillment all come into play with each item. Then it is another undertaking to build a wired store and assemble the segments needed to ship near or far. 

    If Newhall Farm puts all the pieces together with consistency they should keep the Reading hills aLive with their own sound of music.


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