From White Christmas to New Girl, pop culture has been enchanted by the Vermont getaway for decades. The state has become synonymous with the “country escape,” what with its gorgeous fall foliage, picturesque small towns, and cozy farmhouses and inns.
But pop culture tends to leave out what you can’t experience through a screen: Vermont’s rich soil, agricultural know-how, and the fierce loyalty of Vermonters to all things local combine to make the state a unique destination for food lovers. As visionary chef and food activist Alice Waters said, “When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is.”
Vermont food is indeed extraordinary, and there are some culinary experiences that you really can only have in Vermont. Here are a few of our favorites.
Experience #1: A farm stay and cheesemaking workshop at Fat Sheep Farm
Where: Hartland, Vermont
Todd and Suzy of Fat Sheep Farm had their meet-cute online, specifically on Match.com. Suzy was an elementary school teacher and former zookeeper who dreamt of living on a farm; Todd was a former lawyer working on various Vermont farms to try to learn the ropes. Todd wooed Suzy with fresh produce, and she wooed him right back by turning said produce into lovely meals.
Several years later, Fat Sheep Farm & Cabins was born, offering farm stays and incredible dining and culinary experiences. Play with the farm animals, help with farm chores (if you’d like), shop the farm stand, go for walks in the forest, and even take a workshop on cheesemaking or sourdough bread-baking. We can’t all buy a farm in Vermont, but you can pretend that you did when you’re at Fat Sheep.
Note: Cheesemaking workshops are set to resume in late 2021.
Experience #2: Goodrich’s Maple Farm sugarhouse tour
Where: Cabot, Vermont
There are few things more quintessentially Vermont than real maple syrup. Goodrich’s Maple Farm, a sugarhouse in Cabot, offers free tours that showcase the full process, from maple tree to maple syrup. It’s a doozy: It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of the good stuff. And in Vermont, it’s the best stuff.
You’ll learn the history of sugaring at Goodrich’s, see one of the world’s largest maple sap evaporators, and taste your way through their lineup of maple products. After the tour, you can head over to the Cabot Farmers’ Village Store or local restaurants, just minutes away in town. After all, eating is part of the learning experience, too.
Experience #3: Farm to Ballet
Where: Several locations
Farm to Ballet is a project of Ballet Vermont created by veteran ballet dancer and native Vermonter Chatch Pregger. Farm to Ballet, the website explains, “explores the relationship between farmers and land, natural food cycles, and the human role in ecosystems.” Classic ballets, such as Swan Lake, are reimagined to tell the story of farm life with characters like kohlrabi, cows, and bees.
The ballet is performed at farms around the state and ticket sales are shared with the farms in order to support Vermont’s rural communities. And of course, while you’re there, you’ll have the opportunity to pick up a bit of whatever the farm specializes in, from fresh peaches to alpaca wool.
Experience #4: Philo Ridge farm dinners
Where: Charlotte, Vermont
Philo Ridge Farm is a 400-acre regenerative agriculture farm in the tiny town of Charlotte, a half hour south of Burlington. Quick explainer: Regenerative agriculture is an old style of farming that utilizes a specific ecosystem of plants and animals to draw carbon back into the soil and make it more fertile.
Along with raising heritage livestock breeds, which graze on lush pasture, Philo Ridge grows certified organic fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Some of that is sold at their onsite market, and some is used for their famed farm dinners. Past dishes have included heritage chicken-leg roulade with mushrooms and Hakurei turnips, red Burgundy lettuce salad, beef carpaccio with ramp aioli, and homemade buttermilk ice cream. Exceptional raw ingredients meet serious back-of-house finesse here for a meal you may never forget.
Experience #5: Adventure Dinner
Where: Several locations
Adventure Dinner founder Sas Stewart has been known around Vermont’s food and beverage scene for years. When she closed her Burlington bar Highball Social and sold her distillery Stonecutter Spirits, the community was ready and waiting for her next project.
Adventure Dinner, which has been written up in publications like Food & Wine, “showcase[s] Vermont chefs, makers and producers to paint a dynamic picture of what it is like to live in the Green Mountain State.” And, as the name promises, each dinner is an adventure. You may be dining in an orchard, on a boat, or in a forest, with notice of the location only coming 24 hours before mealtime. Menus for each multi-course feast are planned around seasonal produce and cocktails crafted by Stewart herself. Events are, as the website perkily puts it, “rain or shine, and a ton of fun either way.” Which could pretty much be the motto of any culinary experience you seek out in Vermont.