This summer I decided to trade in the beaches of Rhode Island for the green mountains of Vermont. I go to Middlebury College and my friends and I had talked all year about the prospect of spending a summer in Middlebury and getting the full Vermont summer experience. It’s definitely a plus going to school in such a beautiful state, but having full, warm weekends to explore waterholes, hike mountains, and watch the consistently impressive sunsets on our fire escape is a whole other experience.
The view from our Middlebury apartment above the Taste of India Restaurant.
With that being said I decided to apply to the FoodWorks program at Middlebury in the Spring. I was really interested in the prospect of working with local producers and also curious about the idea of food systems, a concept I had never looked at closely before. After interviewing, I was matched with Fisher Brothers Farm, a small, family owned berry farm in Shelburne, Vermont (they are also working to develop their own ice cream brand: Sisters of Anarchy ice cream) and I have been working there for three weeks now. At Fisher Brothers I mainly work on social media and promotion of the farm. I post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other weekly Vermont blogs about our upcoming events and the latest happenings on the farm. I also write and take photos for the weekly newsletter that they send out and work on their farm website, adding apps and features to the site. Once in awhile I will reach out to local vendors and speak with potential partners for the farm. When I work on these kind of assignments I typically work remotely in Middlebury, which gives me the time (and wifi!) needed to complete everything. A couple days a week I will drive to Shelburne and help out with hands-on tasks like weeding, taming raspberry prima canes, pruning grapevines, and picking berries. This has been my first time working in a farm setting so it has definitely been a learning process that I’ve had a lot of fun with.
Fisher Brothers Farm
Working for Fisher Brothers has been both exciting and challenging. I quickly jumped into an ongoing To-Do list that I need to stay on top of in order for the farm to keep their customers updated and interested. After working with the social media aspects of their business I have realized how crucial this kind of advertisement and promotion is for small businesses in our modern time. People want to be consistently updated, informed, and simply drawn in to the idea of the farm and what it can add to their daily (usually familial) lives. I have also been interested in the idea of value-added products and their significance in the Vermont agricultural industry lately. For example, Fisher Brothers grows elderberry and aronia berries at the farm and they make syrups with these berries for their ice cream. Now, they plan to bottle these syrups and sell them in local coops and stores. It’s so fascinating to me that making these products from their berries, automatically increases revenue for the farm since they can boost the price of their syrup and add a story to it, giving it meaning and therefore more value. This kind of marketing proves so much more effective than simply selling the berries for prices that cannot compete with mass producers. Being involved in the process of creating these value-added products (researching how to bottle the syrup in a safe way, calling coops to ask about pricing/availability of their syrups) has been a learning process. Quite honestly everything I have done at the farm so far has been a learning process but I couldn’t be happier acquiring all of these new skills this summer. This has certainly been the most unique summer I’ve had to date and I’m excited to keep you all updated with my work, FoodWorks class, and life in Middlebury.
Sunset on the farm last week