Leaf-peeping season is winding down in the Northeast, as is the busy cropping and harvesting season for many Cabot farmers. For Loren Wood of Woodnotch Farm in Shoreham, Vermont not far from Lake Champlain, this is his favorite time of year. “I really like fall,” he says, “it starts to cool down and we’re chopping corn. We can see the lake from some of our property and the mountains, too. You have time to take a moment and look at it all. I’m the luckiest son of a gun in the world,” he reflects, “seeing my boys every day and my grandkids, too.”#Fall is a beautiful time for many farmers after the hustle of summer. #FarmLove Click To Tweet
Loren grew up on a small 20-cow dairy just outside of Manchester, New Hampshire and came to Vermont to attend Vermont Technical College. He and his wife, Gail, met in high school. “She didn’t know what she was getting into,” he says with a chuckle. “This is what I always wanted to do. Hanging out with my dad and now with my sons. That’s what it’s all about.”
The Woods raised four sons on the farm and all have joined the family dairy and custom cropping operations. Loren’s sister Sonya Barber and her son, Trevor, also work with the family. The Wood boys all have names starting with L, their dad explains with a grin, ticking them off from oldest to youngest: “Lee, Leslie, Lance and Loren Junior (we call him LJ). When they were kids, my wife used to mark their clothes I, II, III or IIII, adding another ‘I’ each time the shirts or pants were handed down.”
Woodnotch Farm encompasses 1,300 acres of cropland and a milking herd of 360. The Woods’ custom cropping operation manages another 15,000-plus acres of cropland for area farmers who want to focus on their cows or are too small to invest in their own equipment. There’s plenty for each to do and they only run into each other some of the time, says Lance (number 3). “The positive is that there is an immense amount of trust among us,” he says. “We count on each other and we’re not afraid to tell each other what we think.”
The boys have also produced a beautiful next-generation crop of grandchildren, eight so far—from 12 months old to third grade—who are lucky enough to go to grandma daycare. “My mom works harder on any given day than we do,” Lance says with appreciation.
The older grandkids are already showing cows at the county fair and “they love riding the chopper,” their granddad says. In recognition that other kids—even in Vermont—are at least a step removed from farming, Loren has also participated for three years in a farmer pen pal program with a local fourth grade class. “Those kids ask the darndest questions about the animals and about the lake,” Loren says. “Any time you can get non-farm people onto farms to see where their food comes from and to see the animals, it’s good.”
Loren has served on the school board and is currently co-chair of the local select board and the town road commissioner. He is also a director/member of the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition, a group that works to help farmers implement agricultural practices that make economic and environmental sense in the Lake Champlain basin area. “We’re all in this state looking to keep this lake clean,” he says. “We’re going to do our part.”
Woodnotch Farm has a small farm stand with seasonal offerings like sweet corn and pumpkins. It is run by Lee Wood’s girlfriend, Ariel Garland, who has been on the farm full-time since March. The family also raises some of their own beef, most of which they eat themselves. “My wife makes a pretty good hamburger with ranch dressing in them and a thick slice of cheddar on top,” says Lance. For something a little more unusual, try this recipe:
His mom, Lance says, makes a great zucchini bread. “She tells my son it’s pumpkin bread and he eats it,” Lance adds. Since it’s not zucchini season, here’s a recipe for pumpkin bread adapted from our friends at King Arthur Flour to include Cabot Greek yogurt for additional protein for young, growing bodies. (We replaced some of the oil in the original recipe with yogurt following our guidelines for substitution.) We also upped the nutrition factor by using King Arthur’s white whole wheat flour. The bread is great with or without the added nuts and chocolate chips.
Chocolate chip tip: you can use a smaller volume of mini chips because they spread more evenly throughout a loaf.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yield: 2 loaves
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup Cabot Greek yogurt (we used the honey flavor but plain or vanilla would also work well)
- 2 1/3 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups (or one 15-ounce can) pure pumpkin
- 2/3 cups water
- 3 ½ King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
- 1 ½ cups chocolate chips, optional
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8 ½” x 4 ½” loaf pans (if you’re making the plain version of the bread); two 9″ x 5″ loaf pans (if you’re adding chocolate chips and nuts); or one of each, if you’re making one plain loaf, and one loaf with chips and nuts. (We used 1 cup mini chocolate chips across both loaves and baked them in 8 ½ x 4 ½ pans.) In a large bowl, beat together the oil, yogurt, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, and water. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla, stirring to combine. Mix in the chips and nuts, if you’re using them. To make one loaf with chips/nuts, one loaf without, divide the batter in half. Leave one half plain, and add 3/4 cup chips and 1/2 cup nuts to the other half. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans. Bake the bread for 60 to 80 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean; and that same tester inserted about 1/2″ into the top of the loaf doesn’t encounter any totally unbaked batter. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. When it’s completely cool, wrap it well in plastic wrap, and store it overnight before serving.
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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).