This week we got an email from John and Janine Putnam of Thistle Hill Farm in Pomfret, Vermont. They are selling their herd of cows and ceasing production of their world famous Tarentaise Cheese. It was the pandemic that finally put them out of business—they sold their cheese to high end restaurants, and with the sustained shut-downs they could no longer weather the financial storm.
I met John and Janine over 15 years ago (long before Farmers To You was born) at their farm. With immense passion they told me their story of recreating one of the great European alpine cheeses here in Vermont, and then winning best of class for that cheese back in Europe. It was a miraculous accomplishment and a testament to the skill and hard work they brought to their craft.
Knowing them and understanding all too well the sheer effort and passion it takes to run a dairy and make cheese of that quality, I am deeply saddened for them. It must be like a death in the family.
In reality I am shocked I have not had to write more stories of shuttered farms and farm families torn apart by the immense changes brought by this past year’s events.
A year ago in April, two mutually beneficial needs came together to forge and strengthen a movement we began nearly 11 years ago. Families realized their need for healthy, reliably available and fresh food. And on the other side, our small, family farm community needed to reach the marketplace that the pandemic had all but shut them out of.
Together we did it. We came together to feed and support each other. And I personally want to thank you all from the core of my heart.
I know how difficult farming is, and that most farming families are not in it for the money. Most of our farmers care more about taking good care of their land, their animals and their community than they do about living a big lifestyle. So when their craft and survival was threatened, we called out to you—our member families in Boston and Vermont—and you heeded the call and joined us to support them.
Now, 12 months later, most all of our farmers and producer partners have survived and some have even prospered. Most of the new families who joined us a year ago are still with us, but many have left as we get back to “normal.”
I have a wish as we return to more “normal” lives: that we all redefine normal after such a year. That we remain committed to our communities and those who feed us, and leave behind the thoughtless consumer behavior that has caused so much damage over these past decades to our land, climate, those who feed us, and those who care for us.
Our reward is a sweet one: a relationship to the land and those who feed us, and the love returned in the quality, flavor and freshness of their food.
Like a big family, every action one of us takes has an effect on others.
Our dream here at Farmers To You is that by receiving food from farmers you know and trust, you are healthier for it—as is our planet. And while it may take a bit more effort personally, the benefit across our community is magnified many many times.
With gratitude, and best wishes to the Putnams on their next adventure.