Newmont Farm already plays a big role in their community of Fairlee, Vermont. This weekend marks their fifth annual Open Farm event during which they will welcome hundreds of visitors to peek behind the scenes of a 21st Century dairy. “A lot of people drive by our farm and don’t know what a working dairy farm is really like,” Will Gladstone explains. “Inviting them here makes people feel like they’re part of our farm.”
In addition to much hands-on fun and games, the Gladstone family will give guided hay ride tours of the farm during which they will share what it takes to run a state-of-the-art operation with 1,400 milking Holsteins; 1,800 acres of feed crops and a 200-acre pumpkin “patch.” Highlights will include showing how radio chips in each cow’s ear tag track individualized activity data; sensors then gather that information, which empowers farmers to proactively address issues and maximize the health and comfort of every cow. “It’s like FitBit for cows,” Will’s wife, Brooke says.
Will and his brother, Matt, now work in partnership with their parents, Walt and Margaret, each of whom grew up on their family’s dairy farms in New York and Vermont before establishing their own, Newmont Farm (get it?!) over 30 years ago. Along with their daughter-in-law, Brooke, their third son, John, helps out, too, around his off-farm job. “Different generations bring new energy,” Will notes. “We work well together but we all look at things a bit differently. At the end of the day, we’re working together to make our farm stronger.”
Warm(er) weather has brought another delicious development to the diversified, multi-generation farm: a new centrally located Gladstone Creamery ice cream stand! The entire town was pretty excited when the Gladstones decided to buy the local stand, but probably no one quite a much as Will and Brooke’s three girls: Hannah, 8, Bee, 6, and Maddie, 2, as well as their cousin, Warren, 2, Matt’s son. “The girls want to know what their weekly ration is,” laughs Brooke.
Brooke is leading family involvement in this new project with the critical assistance of manager Sandy Cassidy, whose husband has worked for Newmont Farm since Will was four years old. The Gladstones see the stand as a way to dip their toe into the retail market and they repainted the stand to look like a classic red dairy barn, naturally.
For right now, they’re continuing to offer regionally made hard and soft-serve ice creams from New Hampshire, but they are dreaming of possibly churning up their own fresh ice cream in the future. In the meantime, they are making all the sauces and brownies from scratch for their sundaes. They even bake fresh dog biscuits to crown the free “companion” ice cream bowls they offer for canine friends like the family’s own chocolate lab named – what else? – Cabot!
They see it all as responding to the wave of customers wanting to know where their food is from. “People want to be close to their farmer,” Brooke explains. “Something like this helps farmers have more control over their sales and it’s also nice to have something to connect directly with customers over.” On one of the first days they were open, Brooke noticed that her husband was milling around “kind of acting like the mayor,” she recalls with a chuckle. “I think it’s fun for him to get off the farm and make those connections. Agriculture can be a pretty solitary business.”
For her part, Brooke relishes the challenge and the joys of the new ice cream stand and has surprised herself with her favorite menu choice: the Krazy Kow with cotton candy ice cream, special crunch sprinkles and Sprite. “It’s refreshing and makes you feel like a kid,” she says. Overall, she sums up, “It’s fun, so fun to serve people ice cream. Everyone’s happy.”
Click here for more details on Newmont Farm’s Open House on Saturday, June 1, or go to their Facebook page.