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.
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.
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.