On May 22nd 2020, NOFA-VT kicked off our Feeding Those Who Feed Us project, bringing our mobile pizza oven to neighboring Hinesburg to make a pizza oven lunch of gratitude for employees at Family Cow Farmstand and Red Wagon Plants. Both certified organic operations, these two businesses are accustomed to providing key services to their communities: local, nourishing food and healthy plants. But in a spring riddled with so much uncertainty, these farms have proven to be incredible examples of resilience and important access points for their community.
Family Cow Farmstand is a 100% grass-fed organic raw milk dairy, owned and operated by Aubrey Schatz and Scott Hoffman. Known as Vermont’s first organically certified raw milk dairy, they milk their 12 Jersey cows once a day and distribute their raw milk through a CSA and via the farm stand. The incredible attention to detail required to run a raw milk operation added to their “resilience toolbox” when they needed to figure out how to keep their farm stand safe due to the COVID pandemic. When you meet Scott or Aubrey—usually rocking an amazing navy blue mechanic suit—you can’t really imagine them doing anything else but running Family Cow. Their deep emphasis on cow care and comfort means their ladies are moved to fresh pasture up to three times per day and enjoy hay from their land all winter long in their cozy tie stall barn. They see their farm and business as a complex and intricate system - where the various pieces of animals, grass, surrounding agro-ecoystem, and customer community come together in beautiful harmony, and it’s their job to keep the balance.
Sharing a piece of the same property is Red Wagon Plants. Inspired by the kitchen gardens of her birthplace in France and many years of vegetable farming at Burlington’s Intervale, Julie Rubaud started Red Wagon Plants in 2005. Along with an experienced and tight-knit crew of 15, the team at Red Wagon is made up of the kind of people you immediately feel at home with. Through various wholesale accounts and direct-to-customer sales, Red Wagon Plants grow everything from shrubs and succulents to vegetable starts and culinary herbs. Beyond providing hearty and resilient starts and perennials, they believe in the power of gardening knowledge and know-how as a means of resilience. In order to help others grow food for themselves, they partner with many different organizations to donate plants, host events and fundraisers, and promote gardening education.
Pivoting quickly to the needs of their businesses and the safety of their staff and customers, both operations implemented COVID-aware shopping protocols quickly and effectively. Family Cow provides hand-sanitizer by their cash box, requires masks to shop, and limits their farm stand to one person at a time. They also increased their offerings to include staples like pasta, dry beans, and Vermont-grown rice and flour, in addition to their usual slew of VT-grown and produced vegetables, fruits, dairy and meat. At Red Wagon Plants they decided it was best not to open their greenhouses to customers at first and instead switched to pre-orders and home delivery only, creating an interactive and beautiful website almost overnight. Customers picked up their orders curbside, staying in their car throughout the entire process.
In a spring unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, the support of local food and the motivation for people to grow their own, has gone through the roof. Both Red Wagon and Family Cow have risen to the occasion to respond to what their communities are asking for. NOFA-VT is honored to work alongside and collaborate with these amazing farms, collectively building the future we yearn for.