With factory farms that exploit animals, people and the environment alike, American food production makes eating well and doing good a challenge.
But a new wave of social justice conscious food-makers believe food production holds the key to community betterment. They’re making delicious food and changing lives.
Vermont’s Shelburne Farms is a nonprofit that utilizes its expertise in sustainable farming to educate people, and to produce tasty food while they’re at it.
Shelburne Farms started with what they knew best—sustainable agriculture. Back in 1980, they started selling their raw-milk cheese to fund their educational programs and have continued this tradition ever since.
Yes, the cheese is a means to an end. That doesn’t mean that the flavor is an afterthought. The raw-milk cheeses speak for themselves: with pronounced, grassy notes that leave you licking your lips and coming back for more.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to make a product that’s really expressive of our place and our practices,” Shelburne Farms Cheese Sales Manager Rory Stamp says.
As cheesemakers, they try not to interfere and keep the cheese-making process as natural as possible. Stamp described their approach as shepherding milk into becoming great cheese. Each batch of cheese becomes like a snapshot of a day on the farm.
Shelburne Farm’s production measures reflect their socially responsible ethos. Their dairy is certified humane, and their Brown Swiss Cows walk about two miles every day. The sprawling 1,400-acre farm is also a National Historical Landmark. Not only that, but it acts as a campus for the myriad educational programs they provide.
Holly Brough, Director of Communications for the farm, sings praises of the property: “It’s beautiful, it’s inspiring, and it makes all the big ideas of sustainability real for people.”
The farm offers learning experiences for all ages. Adults, children and educators alike can find programs tailored to their needs— from mushroom foraging to teacher trainings that bring sustainability to the classroom. The workshops all share a focus on environmental awareness and community.
This year marks the beginning of Shelburne Farm’s “Climate Resiliency Fellowship,” a twelve month program that brings middle school and high school teachers together to expand their understanding of climate change. This knowledge can then be passed on to their students, to help them plan for a better future.
“I love and believe in the work we do here,” Brough says. “Every time I get to tag along on a school field trip or a teacher’s workshop, I witness first-hand the transformative power of this work and place.”
If you have an appetite for bettering society, you might want to turn your attention towards companies like Shelburne Farms, whose approach to food production fits that bill. That way, you can feed your stomach and your soul at the same time.