Some people host Open Houses for a few dozen friends and family, but the Gladstones of Newmont Farm in Fairlee, Vermont do things on a slightly bigger scale. On Saturday, June 3 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the family expects to welcome about 800 guests at their third annual Open Farm event.Click To Tweet
There will be hot dogs and locally made ice cream and Cabot cheese, of course. There will be a photo booth, face-painting, horse-drawn carriage rides and a mechanical cow so everyone can try their hand at milking. Most important, there will be guided hayride tours of the farm during which the Gladstones will share what it takes to run a family dairy with 1,350 milking Holsteins, 1,800 acres of feed crops and a 200-acre pumpkin “patch.”
The family’s original goal with the event, says Will Gladstone, was to reach out to the community to offer a behind-the-scenes peek into daily life on their farm, from adorable baby calves to manure management. “A lot of people drive by our farm and don’t know what a working dairy farm is really like,” Will explains. “Inviting them here makes people feel like they’re part of our farm.”
The Gladstones also send out a newsletter that updates neighbors and friends twice a year about seasonal farm activities and background on what it takes to run their farm sustainably. “My mom recently ran into someone in the grocery store,” Will recounts, “and she said to Mom, ‘I love getting the newsletter. Every time I get it, I know exactly what’s going on at the farm.’”
Newmont Farm has grown over the more than quarter-century since Walt and Margaret Gladstone settled down there. Margaret grew up on a Vermont dairy farm and loved everything about it. “I was driving a tractor at 8 years old,” she recalls. “It was very family-oriented. We all worked together.” A few years after she graduated from college, her brother introduced her to Walt Gladstone, a farmboy raised on a New York dairy.
“We both wanted to farm. It was a passion on both of our sides,” Margaret says. “We spent a lot of our courting time looking for our own farm.” They married in 1987 and bought their Vermont farm a year later, naming it in honor of their two home states.
All three of the couple’s sons are involved in the family business. Will, the oldest, is now a partner on the farm, and his wife, Brooke, helps with communications and record-keeping. John and Matt work on crops; John is also the righthand pumpkin man, while Matt manages most of the farm’s mechanical needs. Will and Brooke’s three girls and Matt and Marie’s new baby son have brought a third generation to the farm, which makes everyone very happy.
Will has fond memories of growing up on the farm and looks forward to that experience for his daughters Hannah, 6, Bee, 4, and 9-month-old Madeline, as well as his nephew, Warren. “I always enjoyed being on the farm and being with my parents. I can’t think of a lot of businesses where it can be done as a family,” he reflects. For a young person, Will adds, farm life offered unique rewards. “Once you mastered a task,” he explains, “you felt like you could make a difference. Being part of the farm felt like being part of something bigger than yourself.”
“Different generations bring new energy,” Will continues. There are joys and challenges, he says: “We work well together but we all look at things a bit differently. At the end of the day, though, we’re working together to make our farm stronger.”
Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming, and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).