by Enrico Villamaino
Tucked away in the north of the Green Mountain State, Templeton Farm has been owned and operated by the same family for over two centuries.
Today, seventh-generation farmer Bruce Chapell is the patriarch of the clan. “The original members of our family came to America on the Mayflower in 1620. The Templeton family was one of the three founding families in the town of East Montpelier, moving from Peterborough, New Hampshire, in 1788. The farm as it is known today was settled by John Templeton Jr. in 1810.” Templeton Farm was for years a subsistence farm raising sheep and dairy cattle. Today, it specializes in producing beef cattle and maple syrup.
Growing up, Bruce would spend his summers working on the farm. He credits his late grandmother, Alice, with instilling in him a true love of the land. “I also spent some time working on a few farms in New Hampshire. It definitely influenced me, and that’s how I ended up studying soils and hydrology at the University of New Hampshire,” he said. After graduation, he worked for over 35 years for the USDA’s Conservation Service in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Templeton Farm is worked by Bruce, his partner Sherry Miller and his son and daughter-in-law Seth and Natalie Chapell. The farm consists of approximately 150 acres, with 75 acres of open land and 75 acres of forest. Of the forest land, 20 acres are sugar bush. “There’s also a secondary sugarwood plot about two miles away from us, owned by Seth and Natalie, that we use. It’s about 40 acres in size,” Bruce explained.
In 1986, Templeton Farm was tapping about 400 trees. Bruce is glad to report that they have over 2,600 trees tapped, all on pipeline with a vacuum system that augments sap production. They produce about 1,000 gallons of syrup a year – 50% sold in bulk, 50% in retail sales.
In 2010, Templeton began its beef cattle operations, starting with 12 cows. “At one point, we actually had upwards of 70 cows in our herd,” said Bruce. “Now we’ve leveled off to about 50. Templeton Farm is proud to raise all natural grass-fed beef. Our Angus and Hereford cattle feed on lush green pastures … completely growth hormone and antibiotic free, resulting in a natural beef product that is exceptionally flavorful. Raising grass-fed cattle this way takes six to eight months longer to reach a marketable weight. We feel it is well worth the extra time. We care deeply for our animals.”
The herd is housed in a barn that was erected in 1877. Bruce added a more modern pole barn in 2016. Templeton Farm’s beef is featured in restaurants both locally and as far as Burlington, nearly 50 miles away.
Stating that it helps business “to have a niche-type event,” Bruce and his family have started hosting burger nights. Held once a month, the burger nights feature a farm-to-table meal for guests. “Our most recent burger night had burgers made with our own beef. If you ordered a cheeseburger, you got local Vermont Cabot cheese. We also had salads made with locally-grown veggies and served with our own maple balsamic dressing, ice tea sweetened with our own maple syrup and Vermont-made Ben and Jerry’s vanilla ice cream for dessert – served with our maple syrup drizzled on top, of course!” he said.
The entertainment at the burger nights is local as well. “We have folk, country, bluegrass, fiddle music, banjos…a lot of good music,” he said. One thing that’s not necessarily local? The guests. “While we do get most of our guests from the immediate area, we’ve had people from all over at our burger nights. We had a family from California at our last one,” he noted. Burger nights have drawn upwards of 175 guests to Templeton Farm.
Templeton is an old school farm with old school values – including the honor system. “We recently established a farm store on the porch of our home,” said Bruce. “It’s open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. The freezer is well stocked with a variety of beef and maple products. All you have to do is select your products, record your purchases and put your cash or check in the cash box. It’s set up totally on the honor system. We feel this is the ‘Vermont way.’”
Bruce’s future plans for Templeton Farm include revamping their maple syrup sales. “We’d like to move more towards retail sales, which has proven to be more profitable for us than the bulk sales,” he explained. Templeton Farm will be using Amazon.com to facilitate online sales and to help bring a taste of Vermont to customers nationwide.
For more information, visit www.templetonfarm.com.