By Briana Palma
It’s a small operation with a big heart.
On a hillside in Northfield, VT, Mari Omland and Laura Olsen of Green Mountain Girls Farm use sustainable and organic practices to produce a range of foods, while also welcoming visitors with open arms. The two work hard to “give people the opportunity to be deeply involved” in what they do in, whether through regular detailed blog posts, appearances at public markets and events, or exciting hands-on activities at the farm.
Day in and day out, Mari and Laura share the tricks of the trade with visitors, who are invited to take a tour of the farm or participate in one of the workshops offered, such as cheese making, butchering and canning. Guests can also learn how to milk the goats and enjoy a warm, foamy latte made as fresh as it comes. For those who wish to soak up the rural, farm-to-table lifestyle for more than a day, Mari and Laura even offer an on-site guesthouse with accommodation for up to six people.
These experiences, Mari says, help make the farm economically viable while attracting visitors young and old from all walks of life.
“Some of our [farm share program] members are talented musicians who used to perform at Carnegie Hall. These are sophisticated people who travel around the world and are written up in The New York Times, and they’re doubled over, laughing, giddy and just enjoying having a ‘Latte on the Hoof,’ Mari says, explaining that, as one of the farm’s signature experiences, people can try warm beverages made with milk direct from the goats. “Then the next night I have an old, cranky dairy farmer over and he’s giddy and laughing in the milking barn and having a ‘Latte on the Hoof.’”
The care with which Mari and Laura welcome their diverse guests extends to the animals as well. As former vegetarians, the two believe in treating all their farm animals with respect, not only by allowing them to graze freely under the sunshine, but also by giving them names and even the occasional belly rub. The tradition of naming animals also allows visitors to stay up-to-date on all the four-legged friends they make while at the farm.
“There’s a family in Maryland that was here when Myst and Mahjong were born,” she says. “They helped us name them and later they sent up collars for them. Essentially they adopted these goats, so whenever there’s a blog post about goats, they’ll look for Myst and Mahjong.”
From their humanely treated animals Mari and Laura produce fresh goat’s milk, eggs and pasture-raised meats along with vegetables and canned pantry items. They sell at their on-site farm store throughout the year and at the Northfield, VT Farmers Market in the summer months. This year they also decided to bring the fruits of their labor of love to the one-day Boston Local Food Festival on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. They hope to gain new customers, network with peers, and inspire more Boston-area residents to visit the farm.
“To share it with other people helps us see anew the beauty of the farm,” Mari explains. “Like anything, it can become a bit of a daily grind, but visitors keep it fresh for us. They come from different places and they notice different things; they refresh our observation of the beauty present on a small hill farm in Vermont.”
“You can see the highway from here and we’re less than 2 miles from the exit,” Mari emphasizes. “People are tired and busy and it’s hard to find time to do these things, but do it for yourself; plug into the countryside and get that deep refilling of your well. It’s not easy to jump out of our busy lives and do something different, but it is easy to get here.”
Briana Palma is a Boston-based writer who covers food, travel and the outdoors. For more information on her work, visit www.brianapalma.com.