Hilary Haigh is busy – very busy. Along with her husband Ben, Hilary is hard at work every day at Rolling Bale Farm in Shoreham, VT.
A native of Ferrisburgh, VT, Hilary grew up on a family farm. She described her family’s operation: “We had a market garden, lamb, beef and both broiler chickens and egg layers.” She went on to earn her degree in animal science at the University of Vermont.
Ben studied forestry at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks of New York State. While not coming from a farming family himself, he did gain farming experience working on an uncle’s operation.
“In 2014 we started Rolling Bale,” Hilary said. “The farm operates on 80 acres that we own as well as on 250 leased acres that aren’t directly connected to us but are still here in Shoreham.”
The farm has always been worked by just the two Haighs. Over the past 10 years, their business has consistently grown and prospered. Rolling Bale produces lamb, beef, broiler chickens, butter and buttermilk. The farm itself is certified organic.
When they first started out, the Haighs would sell much of their produce at the Middlebury Farmers Market, which is only about 25 minutes away. Today they have a more diversified customer base.
“I’d describe our meat sales as hyper local,” Hilary explained. “It’s nearly all in Addison County.”
She pointed out that their beef is 100% grass-fed, the lamb is grass-fed and certified organic and the broiler chickens are pastured and free-ranged, certified organic and processed on the farm. The farm practices rotational grazing. They’ve found their breed selections in combination with pasture management have allowed them to produce tender, marbled and flavorful meat.
“I’d say that about 90% of our beef is sold custom-cut, with the rest sold at our farm store and nearby farm stands,” Hilary said. “On the other hand, our lamb sales are 40% custom-cut, whereas 60% is sold at the farm store and farm stands.”
Rolling Bale has nearly 30 cows, as many as 85 ewes and 1,000 chickens each year.
In February 2022, Rolling Bale Farm acquired the Animal Farm Creamery business, which was located in nearby Orwell, and relocated the operation and its herd to Shoreham. “Our buttermilk sales are more regional – mostly throughout Vermont and into New York State,” said Hilary.
The cultured butter they produce, some of the most sought after by restaurants across the U.S., has a nationwide customer following. “Our butter sales are all wholesale,” she said. “We work with a distributor and sell to locations all over the country.”
When they first moved in, the Haighs had two small barns on the property. Since then, they have expanded, erecting one large livestock barn, one hay barn, a creamery, a milkhouse, miles of fencing and the aforementioned farm store. “The farm store is very rustic!” Hilary laughed.
She said that it was during many of these infrastructure improvements that her husband’s background in forestry came in handy. “One of our earliest purchases was a Wood-Mizer portable saw, and nearly 100% of the wood used in these building projects were from timber here on the property,” she noted.
As for what is on the horizon for Rolling Bale, Hilary listed a few upcoming developments.
“We have 200 blueberry bushes here on the property. And we’d like to start a ‘pick-your-own’ blueberry option,” she said.
Hilary is also trying to hire a relief milker. “We need it. No matter what, milking needs to happen twice a day, and there’s no flexibility there. It would help take some of the pressure off.”
She and Ben will also be looking to expand the number of restaurants they sell their cultured butter to.
Finally, she said that Rolling Bale will stop raising broiler chickens next year. “We were hoping to receive grant funding that would allow us to take on an apprentice and provide their housing, but it didn’t come through,” she said. “On top of that, we’re expecting our third baby, so we’ll be focusing on our other produce going forward.”
For more information visit RollingBaleFarm.com.
by Enrico Villamaino