This post is the second in a series of essays by Vital Communities intern, Nicolle Moore, about her summer participation in the Farm Worker Learning Collaborative.
It is hard to imagine a more perfect place to be a kid than among the endless fields of grass, kind animals, winding roads and wooded paths of a farm in Vermont. As two young boys go running by me, grinning and out of breath, they appear to be in hog heaven-literally. Eben and August are the two sons of Hayley and Gabe Zoerheide, the proud owners of Winter Moon Farm in Corinth, Vermont. The boys are so excited and interested in the Learning Collaborative guests that Hayley makes them each a nametag, just like the rest of us.
Gabe starts the tour by leading the group over to an area with 150 freedom ranger chickens scuffling about in the grass. A debate about the different types of meat chickens quickly arises among the farmers in the group, each person having a different opinion or personal experience to contribute. Eben rolls himself into the grass near Gabe’s feet, clearly undaunted by the electric fence and already accustomed to this type of discussion. The tour then moves past a hillside where I spot a gathering of small sheep and a singular dairy cow that supplies milk for the family. I am remarkably unprepared for what awaits us around the corner, the only warning being a scent carried by the breeze. Lounging comfortably on a wooded hillside are four pigs that could undoubtedly cripple me under their weight. While I keep a close eye on them, Gabe explains that their uncommon placement in the woods is due to the limited amount of cleared space on their property. Winter Moon Farm is only a few years old and many of Gabe’s fencing strategies are based on trial and error. Next to a group of smaller (and less intimidating) pigs, Gabe points out a geothermal water system nearby that he built himself, along with handmade chicken crates and pig shelters.
As we walk toward the smell of bacon cooking on the grill, August comes running toward the group so that he can walk back with his father. There are green salads, pasta salads, and strawberries at the potluck but the best part is the Winter Moon Farm burgers and bacon. (I only briefly consider smuggling some of the bacon into my pocket for a snack later on). During dinner, Gabe and Hayley very honestly talk about the triumphs and struggles of starting a new farm. The difficulties that these farms face are fascinating because they are unique to each farmer and family. The obstacles that Chuck Wooster talked about during his tour at Sunrise Farm are completely different than those of the Zoerheide family. Toward the end of the potluck we consider the unique image a farm can create for itself within a community. The animals that enjoy the atypical landscape are what create the delicious products at Winter Moon and the family love of farming is what provides a sense of hospitality.