Milking the goats at Big Picture Farm

Milking the goats at Big Picture Farm

Big Picture Farm has caught the attention of many a candy-eater, gift-giver, artisanal-food junkie and Tumblr user, and the farm’s award-winning goat’s milk caramels are fully deserving of hype and high praise. We proudly stock their precious packages in the bakery window, and hold onto their idyllic postcards behind the bakery to cheer us up. Behind their stunning pictures and doodles of goats, dogs, and garden harvests, however, is a working farm and growing business driven by passionate people.

Louisa Conrad and Lucas Farrell own Big Picture Farm on more than 150 acres of southern Vermont hillside, in the tiny town of Townshend. There, along with two dozen goats and a small staff, they oversee every step of making their caramels, from field to gift box. (They also make small batches of a tomme-style cheese, a winner at this year’s American Cheese Society Awards!) Their goats spend as much of the year as possible rotating through the lush pastures and woods, gobbling up the seasonal buffet. Louisa and Lucas first fell in love with goats after working at Blue Ledge Farm, another farmstead creamery in Vermont, then came to Townshend to work at the former Peaked Mountain Farm, milking sheep and making a variety of cheeses, all while starting their own small goat herd. Over the next five years, the creation of their caramel recipes, their adorable packaging, and the expansion of their wholesale and mail order business has put Big Picture Farm on the fancy food map.

I spent the past spring and summer at Big Picture Farm, mostly focused on caring for their Saanen, Alpine and Nubian goats, and making and aging cheese. It was hard work that asked a lot of my body and mind each day, but the rewards were endless.

Future goat milk caramel and cheese makers

Future caramel and cheese makers!

A typical day at Big Picture Farm begins with milking and chores at 5:30am (don’t skip out on the coffee), and the goats are always waiting to be fetched for their morning massage and snack. About three hours later, the goats are back out on pasture, napping or browsing, and their fresh, creamy, floral milk is in the tank, ready to be transformed. When most people are starting their workdays, I would be heading in for a second cup of coffee and a farmer’s breakfast, happy to have been up with (or before) the sun and to be in such a beautiful place.

The rest of the day fills up with various work projects, between mucking out the barn, changing the goats’ pasture, caring for dogs, cats, and chickens, and the garden, as well as helping out with packaging and shipping. On cheese making days, one person milks while two others spend all morning around the comforting smells of warming milk in the vat and ripening cheeses in the cave. In what seems like the blink of an eye, it’s 3:30pm and time to prepare for the evening milking. If the confectioner has been at work, the milking parlor has a great mixture of earthy and sugary aromas. Walking out of the big red barn in front of the setting sun, I can pick up ingredients from our garden on my way in for dinner; then, it’s to bed, to do it all over again the next day.

Since moving back to Massachusetts and joining the team at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, I now see the hard work that goes not just into those caramels, but all of our products.

Big Picture Farm Caramels

Big Picture Farm Caramels
(photo courtesy of Big Picture Farm)

We rotate through all four of Big Picture Farm’s glorious goat milk caramel varieties, and currently have three flavors at the Cambridge shop: the original Sea Salt and Bourbon Vanilla, winner of a gold SOFI award in 2012, the Chai, winner of a Good Food Award in 2013, and the Maple Cream. Visit bigpicturefarm.com to find more information about the farm, farmers, and the most adorable and tastiest gift ever. We <3 our small producers!


Leah Wang is still a farmer in Vermont and Maine (in her heart and mind), but loves being a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

Get ready for Thanksgiving turkey!

Get ready for Thanksgiving turkey!

As a young girl my family would travel every year to share Thanksgiving dinner with family. I remember singing “Over the river and through the woods…” ad nauseam at least one of those trips. I grew more and more excited as the car crossed the Connecticut River, then through the mountain forests; the Appalachian Mountains. I knew with each landmark I was that much closer to seeing my cousins and the feast they would have prepared. Images of the giant bird, dripping with juicy gravy, made me anxious to arrive.

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Clos Cibonne Cuvee Speciale Tibouren

Clos Cibonne Cuvee Speciale Tibouren

We’re so excited to share the Clos Cibonne Cotes de Provence red with you, as this is one of our favorite wines for late summer and early fall!

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Chocolate Terroir

A sampling of our selection of Madagascar and Ecuador bars

Earlier this month we posted part one of my interview with Carla D. Martin, “Professor of Chocolate” and Lecturer in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. In part one we talked about the meaning of “craft chocolate” in North America, both to the producer and the consumer. In this post I asked Carla to talk about what I consider to be two of the most interesting aspects of food production — terroir and cost.

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Clos de l'Origins Soif de Plaisir 2011

Clot de l’Origins Soif de Plaisir 2011

Southwest of the Languedoc lies Roussillon, a region that has too often been reduced to mere suffix. Roussillon stretches from the river Aude in the north to the border of Catalonia in the South. In the West, the snow-capped Pyrenées rise above 2500m in places, with the jagged peaks of Pic du Canigou at 2,786m (9.140ft) above sea level. A sharp descent eastward brings you to back to the stifling heat of the Mediterranean coastline, where Vin Doux Naturels reign supreme. Roussillon is primarily known for these wines, which are made from partially-fermented grape juice that is fortified with alcohol before it fully becomes wine. Made from the most common regional varietal, Grenache (whether is be Noir, Gris, or Blanc) , these aperitif “wines” benefit from early ripening fruit in some of the hottest, driest vineyards in all of France. Overall Roussillon produces 90% of all French Vin Doux Naturel, the most famous of which is Banyuls, made in the southeasternmost corner of the region. In Banyuls-sur-Mer, Grenache grapes are grown on steeply-terraced schist slopes, allowed to shrivel on the vine, fermented, fortified, and aged in barrel for years at a time at which point they can achieve a depth comparable to vintage port.

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Verival Urkorn Müsli Bowl

Verival’s Urkorn Müsli

The most important meal of the day isn’t always exciting, especially when you’re trying to keep it healthy. In the U.S. we associate health-food with bland, boring attempts at reduced sugar, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Müsli (also written muesli) was invented at the turn of the century by the Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner as a health food and diet dish — whole grains blended with lots of fruit and eaten with yogurt, milk, or fruit juice. I don’t remember if I was first introduced to müsli in Switzerland or not, but I do remember that I loved it (and not as a diet dish).

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Formaggio Kitchen Chocolate  Section

A snapshot of part of the Formaggio Kitchen chocolate section

Not many people get to study food for a living, but even fewer study chocolate. Carla D. Martin, a Lecturer in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University and “Professor of Chocolate,” studies social issues in the cacao and chocolate industry, from production and processing to personal consumption. She has also co-taught our class on chocolate here at Formaggio Kitchen, and stops by regularly for her favorite bars.

The world of chocolate, and North American craft chocolate in particular, has exploded in the last few decades. Building off of the rising popularity of fair trade and single origin products in the 1970s and 1980s, the French companies Bonnat, Valrhona, and Cluizel were the first to introduce single origin chocolate, bringing the concept of terroir formally to the world of chocolate consumption. Today, the number of artisanal, single-origin chocolatiers has skyrocketed, with our selection of around ten different producers making up just a small sampling of U.S. craft chocolates. When I first started trying the chocolates in our selection, I found defining craft chocolate, let alone picking a bar, pretty overwhelming. As part of my personal education efforts I sat down with Carla to talk about her views on the exciting world of North American craft chocolate, and what it all really means for chocolate lovers!

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