**Santa Spoiler Alert!**
This Cabot Family Supports Santa Beyond Milk and Cookies
At Endless Variety Farm in Barton, John Broe Jr. milks around 65 cows. The herd includes Brown Swiss, Swedish Red, Holstein and Jersey—the wide variety that led to the name of the farm he runs with the support of his wife, Deanna, and their two sons, Connor and Tucker. “He’s so proud of the amount of milk and the high butterfat his animals produce,” says Deanna. “He takes such good care of the animals. It motivates him every day.”You knew that Cabot farmers take good care of their cows, but did you know that some also care for another very special kind of ruminant? Santa spoiler alert! #CabotFarmers #CabotCheese #FarmLove Click To Tweet
John Jr.’s father, John Sr. also helps out on the dairy farm. In addition, he, and his wife Pauline take care of another variety of ruminant animal. They are not a breed of cow but distant relatives with especially eye-catching headgear and a very busy schedule every winter. Any guesses?
Pauline and John Sr. already had a menagerie of rescue animals. Then, Pauline recounts, “I got this wild idea about reindeer. I thought it would be a cool little niche. We got some land. We got a barn. What the heck?”
Research involved going to a reindeer and Santa convention in Tennessee and finding reindeer to buy in Indiana and New York. Reindeer have the same digestive system as cows, Pauline explains, and her husband had helped take care of a local elk herd, so they weren’t starting from scratch with their Vermont Reindeer Farm.
The best part, Pauline says, is seeing people’s faces when they realize that reindeer are real. To youngsters, she explains, “These are Santa’s reindeer. It’s our job to take care of the reindeer for Santa. We call ourselves the reindeer-keepers.”
Last year was a busy one for the reindeer-keepers and their reindeer, who are poised to become stars of the big and small screen!
Last February, they brought one of their reindeer, Prancer, to Chester, Vermont for a movie shoot of a forthcoming Christmas movie called “The Truth About Santa,” due out in 2020.
Without sharing any plot secrets, Pauline can say only that the director wanted Prancer to be loose on the road. To make sure the reindeer was safe, they had her on a long brown lead rope and Jeremy, one of the Broes’ sons held onto it laying in a snow bank on the side of the road. “She kept looking at him,” Pauline said, “like, ‘Why are you in a snow bank?’””
In another scene, Prancer was supposed to be pulling Santa’s sleigh, but this particular Santa was not really expert in leading reindeer, so Jeremy had to coach him on the use of the reins from behind the scenes.
Then, last November, a commercial film crew visited the farm to shoot an advertisement with the reindeer. “They fell in love with the chickens, the goats and Fred the rooster,” says Pauline. “He will have a cameo.”
Another member of the menagerie who has gotten a lot of attention over the last year or so is Miss Maple Annie. She even made the front page of The Boston Globe! The petite brown deer came to the Broes when she was just one day old. She is not a reindeer but a breed called Sika, native to East Asia.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets approached the family because they knew they had reindeer and some other deer. The baby deer was so young, the Broes had to keep her in the house. “She became like one of our dogs,” Pauline says, “hanging out with our golden retrievers.” A lot of people came to visit Miss Maple Annie and wanted to feed her with a bottle, like dairy calves are fed on Endless Variety Farm.
But once Miss Maple Annie got big enough, it was time to transition her out to the barn with the other deer. “She really was a house deer. She wasn’t sure about snow,” Pauline says. It took her about a month to get comfortable out of the house and Pauline admits she does miss having her inside. Miss Maple Annie seems perfectly happy, though, to be with her animal friends and also receive special attention from her human friends. “She still loves people,” Pauline says. “Reindeer don’t really like to be petted but she loves it.”
Since the Broes have the only reindeer in Vermont, demand is high for appearances throughout the winter season for both Christmas-related events and also educational programs. Among the information they share is that reindeer are a distinct subspecies of caribou and that both males and females have antlers, which they lose and regrow on an annual cycle.
Pauline says the reindeer like to go for walks in the woods, browsing for dandelion greens, raspberry and maple leaves. Endless Variety Farm grows the soft hay they like to eat. That is just one way that the dairy cow farm and the reindeer farm are intertwined. “We just kind of all work together,” Pauline says.
John Jr. and his wife, Deanna, are in the process of buying the Barton farm from Rupert and Muriel Chamberlin. The Chamberlins were inducted into the 2017 Vermont Agriculture Hall of Fame and represent one of the original 94 farmer-member Cabot co-op families.
The older couple still live in the farmhouse that overlooks the dairy barn and can see the day-to-day operations from their windows. “Their enjoyment in life is being able to look out and see the tractors going and all the farm activities,” Pauline says. “They’re such a strong Vermont farming family. Rupert just wants to see that land stay in farming.”
Learn more about Vermont Reindeer Farm and stay up to date on their latest activity through Facebook or go to their website. Please note: there may be special restrictions due to COVID-19. Please contact the farm and check their Facebook for the latest updates.
Read about the Broes and their Vermont Reindeer Farm in The Boston Globe.
Broe Family Christmas Pumpkin Rolls
Makes about 20-30 small dinner rolls depending on shape
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons Cabot butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 and one-quarter teaspoons (1 packet) dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
1 cup mashed pumpkin
4 ½ to 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
Heat milk, butter, sugar and salt in a small pan set over medium heat until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, dissolve yeast in warm water in a large mixing bowl. Add lukewarm milk mixture and pumpkin along with 2 cups of flour to the yeast and mix until smooth. Add remaining flour and mix with your hands until you can handle it. (It might be a little sticky still.) Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
Place dough in a greased bowl, turn dough, cover with a clean cloth and let rise in a warm place until about doubled, 1 ½ hours or so. (Dough is ready if a fingerprint remains when touched.) Punch dough down and divide into three balls. Roll each out until about ½-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. (The Broes cut triangles and roll them into crescents; you can also use a biscuit cutter and fold each round in half over a pat of butter.) Arrange rolls a couple inches apart on greased baking sheets. Cover each with a towel and let rise for another 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake rolls for about 15-20 minutes until golden, switching pans from top to bottom shelves and turning them front to back halfway through. Serve warm with lots of Cabot butter.
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).