Adam Lidback always felt at home in the pastoral corner of Vermont where his family started farming in 1945. He grew up in New Hampshire but spent every summer on the farm with his cousins and aunt and uncle, David and Juliette Stevens, who had taken it over. Adam studied animal science, worked for a builder, and eventually came back full-time in 2008. “I love working the land,” he says. “I always thought I’d farm. I just always thought I wanted to end up here.”
Earlier this year, Adam and his wife, Joanna, completed the long process of becoming the next generation to own the 470 acres of rolling hills, woodlands and fertile pastures upon which they seasonally graze their herd of 60 milking cows. Although Adam, a man of few words, does not gush much about how this makes him feel, Joanna notes that it is the culmination of a long-held goal. “We found in his high school yearbook that he did indeed list among his dreams and aspirations to settle in beautiful northern Vermont,” she says. “Adam is really tied to this land.”
The Stevens’ had previously conserved the farmland, ensuing it would remain in agriculture, but the transition process was still complex and lengthy, acknowledges Joanna. Coincidentally, she works as a business consultant for a local farm credit agency and advises others on farm transfer, a crucial part of agricultural sustainability. “Communication is the biggest key. Finding a way to start the conversation is critical and there’s something to be said about patience,” she says. “It was both fun and funny to be on the other side of the table. I know how many moving parts there are: financing, surveying and zoning, conservation easements, state environmental and tax regulations to name just a few. All these rules and laws are designed with the intent to help people keep farming. Making sure you do everything correctly is time-consuming, but it is worth it in the end.”
The Lidbacks have two young sons and are on the cusp of welcoming their third child, a daughter. As their family grows with its roots fully set in The Farm at Wheeler Mountain, the couple looks both backwards and forwards. “Adam’s aunt, Juliette, always said that the conservation was a tribute to the legacy of the generations that came before,” Joanna says. “Everything we do is with an eye to sustainability so we can keep going,” her husband adds. This includes working closely with the county natural resources conservation district manager and carefully managing the grazing rotation of their herd.
Holiday Grilling Tips and Side Dish Recipes
The Lidbacks raise some of their own beef, which they sell locally to friends and neighbors. Here are a few grilling tips they shared:
- Keep it simple to let the flavor of really good beef shine through. For steaks, they use a rub of coarse salt, garlic powder and freshly ground black pepper applied to both sides. Burgers get just a little salt and they oil the patties (rather than the grill) to prevent sticking.
- To ensure burger patties fit the buns perfectly, the Lidbacks shape their patties a little wider than the bun knowing they will shrink a bit. Flatter patties will cook more evenly, but don’t handle the burger meat too much as it can get tough. Making a gentle but firm indent with your thumb in the center of each patty will help them grill up evenly.
- For the kids, Joanna makes smaller rectangular burgers that fit into half a bun.
- Favorite side dishes include a crunchy broccoli slaw Joanna makes with sunflower seeds, dried cranberries and a lightly sweetened apple cider vinegar-mayonnaise dressing, like this one.
- The family also makes their own version of Hasselback Potatoes, which they call Lidback Potatoes (oh yes, they do). Slice them, season and fill with a few rings of onions and a little shredded cheddar. You can wrap each whole potato in foil and put it on the grill for a while or do them in the oven. Here’s a how-to from our blogger friend, The Slow Roasted Italian.
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).