The town of Woodstock is located in what is known as the “quiet corner” of northeastern Connecticut. The tight-knit rural community values its farms, proudly claiming the most dairy farms of any town in the state.These two Cabot farms are inviting their customers and neighbors right to the source for the freshest dairy they can buy. Click To Tweet
This year, two of those farming families — both members of the co-op behind the Cabot brand — are asking neighbors to demonstrate support in a very tangible and direct way by buying fresh dairy products and other local foods at their pair of newly opened on-farm markets.
At a time of low milk prices and other challenges to small family farms, both the Peckhams of Elm Farm and the Youngs of Valleyside Farm say it’s been deeply rewarding to connect face-to-face with customers. It’s all too easy to get bogged down in the routine of paperwork, equipment needing repair, and all the hurdles of keeping an agricultural operation running smoothly. Hearing directly from their community that they appreciate the hard work of farming and the good food it produces has provided a needed lift.
Shortly after her family opened their Farm to Table Market this summer, Chrissy Peckham recalls that a customer, a retired farmer, literally drank an entire half-gallon of milk he’d just pulled from the cooler. It did her husband, Matt, a world of good to witness that pleasure in person. As a farmer usually several steps removed from the consumer, Chrissy says, “You don’t often get to see the happiness your product brings.”
To see someone enjoying the fruits of all their labor right there on the farm is very meaningful, agrees Angela Young of Valleyside Farm. Her family’s new Woodstock Creamery and market have delivered “a big boost as far as morale goes,” she says. “People have been so welcoming and appreciative of what we’re doing with the creamery and the store.”
At Valleyside Farm, the Young family’s new creamery is processing their herd’s fresh milk, handling it very gently and pasteurizing slowly at a low temperature. This method maintains more of the milk’s natural integrity, says Angela.
Woodstock Creamery offers whole and 1 percent milk, chocolate and coffee milks, and a line of high-protein Icelandic-style yogurt called skyr in flavors including honey-vanilla and triple berry, as well as seasonal choices like cranberry-orange and gingersnap. The fruit-flavored skyr are made with pure juice concentrate and the coffee milk with cold-brewed coffee and cane sugar. The Youngs also produce drinkable yogurts and a spreadable, tangy yogurt-based cream cheese in a range of sweet and savory flavors. The store stocks the farm’s own Angus beef and lamb as well as other local products including honey, maple and baked goods.
Angela and her husband, Lucas, work with his father, Tim. The prior generation, Dexter and Nancy Young, also pitch in where needed. Trained as a teacher, Angela’s background is evident in the viewing window into the creamery. “I had to have that part,” she says with a smile. “We really wanted to make a connection back to our consumers. If they have a question, they can come talk to us.”
The couple’s four kids, age 5 ½ to 14, also help out. Their son, Chase, works on the farm and the two middle girls, Addy and Georgiana, help run the cash register. Even little Lydia loves to help greet customers. “It’s been a family effort from the start,” Angela says.
The Peckhams’ new store also involves the whole family. Their eldest, Caleb, is a junior in high school and fully involved with the farm and new market. Grace, 14, helped Chrissy do the design of the website and store. The younger boys, Graham and Tucker, help run the register and bag groceries. Chrissy’s father, Ernie Charron, helps by running the store during the week. “People are happy to see the family involved,” Chrissy says.
Elm Farm’s dairy line includes whole plain and chocolate milk as well as eggnog, all processed and bottled in glass at a local plant. “We don’t skim, so all of our milks have a very rich taste that people love,” says Matt, who adds that customers really appreciate the glass bottles. Their store also offers the farm’s beef and pork and stocks a complete line of Cabot cheeses, as well as local baked goods along with vegetables, eggs, honey, maple, apple cider and apples from other nearby farms. The Peckhams scoop ice cream made by another Connecticut farm. “Everyone is in this together,” says Chrissy.
Between the two farm markets, Angela says, locals should be able to meet many of their shopping needs. “It’s kind of like a local food hub,” she says. Chrissy suggests: “Stop at our farms first, before you go to the grocery store. If you want farmers in your town, this is a way to help us out.”