Shelburne Farms Hosts 37th Annual Harvest Festival for Community


By Alessandria Schumacher

Over 2,000 people turned out this past Saturday for Shelburne Farms’ 37th Annual Harvest Festival, a jubilee of food, music, animals and crafts.

The festival, located on a 1,300 acre farm off the eastern coast of Lake Champlain, is a unique opportunity for small business owners to advertise their foods, artisans to peddle their wares for charitable organizations and non-profits to reach out to a receptive audience.

The crowd ranged from young toddlers and their parents to college-aged students. Many Middlebury students attended the festival for the first time.

“I’ve never actually been to Shelburne Farms, and this is a great way to see it,” Denise Chan ’16 said.

By the entrance, dozens of round hay bales were arranged on their sides, creating a maze for the adventurous toddler. Young children raced through it, climbing and jumping across the bales. Others raced to the top of the highest bale of hay to claim the title of ‘king’ or ‘queen’ of the mountain.

Nearby, miniature horses pulled two- or three-seater chariots in circles around an enclosed grassy area. The constant rhythmic music of an Abenaki drumming circle drifted over the entire celebration.

Up a grassy hill to the right, the ‘Farm Barn’ surrounded a two acre courtyard of food vendors, performers and craft vendors. The name Farm Barn is a misnomer for the sprawling multi-floored complex at Shelburne Farms. The building rises five stories high, has three pointed turrets and encloses the courtyard with imposing Medieval-looking stone walls.

Inside the Farm Barn were even more stands and attractions. One of the most popular of the rooms was specifically devoted to cheeses and jams.

Tom Bivin, Executive Director of the Vermont Cheese Council, chatted with the patrons as he carved out samples of four local cheeses: Parish Hill Humble Herdsman, Ascutney mountain cheese, a savage from the Von Trapp family farmstead and a Bayley Hazen blue cheese from the cellars of Jasper Hill.

“Our goal is to introduce people to as many cheeses as possible,” he explained to a local writer. “Shelburne Farms is really one of the great cheese companies in the state, and they do so many other things. They’re very supportive of the rest of the cheese community.”

“I think most people haven’t had a really good quality cheese, so it’s always a surprise,” he continued.

Sonia Rivadeneira, originally from Ecuador, was there to advertise her homemade salsa, appropriately named Sonia’s Salsa. The salsa is also preservative free.

“We have a big batch of salsa made in our neighbor’s house, because he has a commercial kitchen,” she explained.

Sonia sells her product at the co-op in downtown Middlebury which she says is “very happy to carry [it].”

The room was quite popular among the Middlebury College attendees; at one point in the afternoon, it was nearly entirely Middlebury students.

    Just outside the room full of cheese samples, Laura MacLachlan, an Energy Educator from Vermont Energy Education Program (VEEP), sat at a table representing VEEP.

“VEEP is hands on energy literacy,” MacLachlan explained. “We bring equipment to schools so we can increase education on energy. We do it all the way from explaining wind with pinwheels, and how to catch the wind, all the way up to, we have curriculum units on understanding how photovoltaics work.”  MacLachlan thinks that VEEP is an effective educational approach because it is hands on.

“This is all engineering,” she said. “This is where we’re trying to promote the next generation of scientists vis-a-vis this engineering. They’re getting into how to make it work.”

The Green Mountain Wood Carvers, a group of artists from across the state, displayed intricately carved sculptures of birds, hunters and other nature-inspired subjects. Bob Lindemann, the head of the group, has been carving for over 40 years.  “I haven’t really found anything I can’t [carve]. It’s one of those things that you decide you want to carve something, and you just start carving it.”
Although many of the sculptures were for sale, that was not necessarily the reason the group was there.

“We’re just here to promote wood carving,” Lindemann explained. “Some people will sell their work, but others are just here to get people interested in trying their hand at woodcarving.”
He explained the process of carving the wood, which is often a light wood like butternut or basswood.

“It starts as a drawing, we cut out a blank. Sometimes you just start with a big chunk, bandsaw. Then you just start taking wood away.”

After walking around for a while, it was hard to miss the attendees – mostly college aged – wearing crowns of leaves on their heads.  By the stone wall at the edge of the courtyard, there was a pile of brush and several pairs of hedge clippers – all the necessary ingredients to make your own crown of greenery.

In the middle of the courtyard, dozens of people stood in line for roasted corn on the cob, cooked on a grill in its husk. The smell of the corn filled the rest of the courtyard where all the other food vendors were set up.

One tent, Theo’s Maple Lemonade, had a constant line of customers. The owner of the stand said that putting maple syrup in lemonade was originally his 5-year-old son’s idea.  At first  he thought it sounded bad, but he gave it a try and it sold out the first time he brought it to the Burlington Farmer’s Market.  At the harvest festival, they sold over 1,000 cups of lemonade in four hours.

Caterers from the Shelburne Farms Inn grilled hamburgers and sold other foods.  One cook said it took six months for them to prepare for this day when they sold approximately 800 hamburgers at the festival.

Two performance tents were set up at opposite ends of the courtyard, once with musical performances and the other with different kinds of acts, such as acrobatics and juggling. Children squealed in delight and horror as one man mounted a heightened unicycle.

“We have to go,” one mother insisted to her child, as the entertainer began the second part of his act.

“Mom! as soon as he finishes this,” the child replied.

The child, like the rest of us, can take solace in the fact that the harvest will be back again next Fall, even if that is a long time to wait.