by Jane Primerano
At one time, most young farmers were the children of farmers and probably farmed land that had been in the family for generations.
Corie Pierce and Adam Wilson don’t fit that mold.
Pierce grew up in New Hampshire down the road from a vegetable farm. At 14, she went there for a summer job and stayed for seven seasons.
“I pulled up my life’s purpose,” she recalled. “It was a 20-acre farm. There were some vegetables I had never heard of. Everything was real and had real meaning. I did everything around the farm and it all made sense.”
Pierce even wanted to work on the corn hauling crew. “There had never been a girl on that crew,” she said.
Times weren’t always good, during a drought they had to limit irrigation, “but we always had time for fun.”
“I got clarity on the farm. I was taught food could be a connector.”
Since her family didn’t have a farm, she didn’t see it as an option. After college in California, she taught and developed curriculum for seven years, but she couldn’t shake the notion that she still wanted to farm. Around her, the greater farming movement was blossoming and she learned to think beyond inheriting a family farm. She started as an apprentice and the first person she met was Wilson, also an apprentice.
When Pierce got a job in Michigan that combined teaching and farming, she met Chris Dorman, a musician who became her life partner. Corie told Chris she had carved out her life path and after their son, Henry (now 6) was born, she decided she wanted to get a farm.
Wilson was already in Vermont and found the LeDuc farm near Shelburne was for sale. A neighbor told the LeDucs about the Vermont Land Trust. With the VLT buying the development rights, Pierce and Wilson still had to qualify to buy the land for its agriculture value.
It was an enormous hurdle bypassed by the pair because the price was drastically less than it would have been, but they had less than a month to submit a proposed business plan for the farm.
The day they were notified that their plan had been selected they found that Gordon Barker, the farmer Pierce worked for as a teen, died.
“He was the person I most wanted to tell,” she said.
Bread and Butter
Today the old LeDuc farm is Bread and Butter Farm where Pierce and Wilson sell raw milk from grass-fed Jerseys and organically-managed 100 percent grass-fed beef. Vegetables are grown year-round in unheated passive solar hoop houses.
The farm hosts Burger Night, a twice a week event. Visitors come for the grass-fed beef burgers, beef and pork hot dogs or veggie burgers, side salads and drinks eaten around the year-round farm store, or inside the store if it starts to rain.
Katy Lesser, founder of Healthy Living Market and Cafe, explained the store needed a guaranteed supply of winter vegetables. Bread and Butter Farm had some capacity for winter growing, but one of the hoop houses had partially collapsed in 2010.
Pierce attended the winter meeting of Healthy Living’s growers and explained she couldn’t finance repairing that greenhouse and building another one. Michael Benoit, the lead produce buyer for Healthy Living, told her he would try to find a solution.
“I said, ‘Give me a week,’ and I called her back in an hour,” he said with a laugh.
Eli Lesser, Katy Lesser’s son and general manager of Healthy Living, explained the quick response. “We wanted to do a project like this for years,” and they jumped at the chance to help Pierce and Wilson.
Benoit says he is amazed at the efficiency of the Bread and Butter Farm Burger service. “Most restaurants wouldn’t do 350 people with six line cooks. They do 500 to 600 people.”
Many of the visitors are regulars. Chris Stewart, who lives “right over the hill” in Williston, said, “We buy bread and eggs here because we believe in supporting local people.”
First timers Judy Rowe and Joey Corcoran said they heard some female farmers from the university talking about Burger Nights and thought, “It’s a lovely idea.”
Eli Lesser characterized it as “thinking outside the box,” a reason Healthy Living was anxious to assist the farm. “Community building, supporting the local economy. We want to help this awesome place grow and prosper.”
If the line of people reaching far down the farm lane is any indication, it’s working.
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