by Anna Kolosky [UVM Community News Service]
GREENSBORO – Dedicated to producing quality artisan cheeses that support Vermont’s working landscape, Jasper Hill Farm is a local working dairy farm in Greensboro. Zoe Brickley, a current overseer of e-commerce and communications at Jasper Hill, has witnessed the farm’s growth over the last decade.
“I moved here almost 12 years ago,” Brickley said. “I grew up in the Midwest, but I was going to culinary school and working in a cheese shop in New York City. That’s how I got to know the farm.”
Brickley joined Jasper Hill right as the tiny farmhouse producer received a loan from the town of Greensboro to help build caves, or cellars, where they process and produce their cheese. According to Brickley, Jasper Hill has served as a model for rural development and expansion.
“Even before they made that investment [in the cellars], they knew that turning the dairy barn into a modern facility added value,” Brickley said. “They knew they wanted that to be a model that could be replicated, and they wanted to pay that experience forward. So, they created space in the cellars for three other farmstead producers and cheese made by Cabot (Creamery).”
This collaboration has led to tremendous growth for Jasper Hill, as they have been able to go from just working with shops and restaurants to working with distributors, Brickley added.
“We had 30-odd employees when we started and now we’re hovering around 100,” Brickley said.”It makes us the biggest employer in the region, especially in the agricultural world.”
Since then, Jasper Hill has purchased a second herd of cows and have built a second creamery within the Vermont Food Venture Center, Brickley noted. Along the way, Jasper Hill has worked and invested in local companies like Vermont Soy and High Mowing Seeds, she added.
“We’re actually renting one of the buildings that is owned by Andrew Meyer, the owner of Vermont Soy,” Brickley said. “He’s got several buildings in Hardwick, and when our e-commerce exploded last year, he made space in half of one of his buildings. We are operating our small parcel fulfillment out of there and that has been a great area of growth for us.”
This investment and expansion of Jasper Hill has allowed them to specialize and create even more job opportunities for local citizens, Brickley added.
“If you have a bigger company, you can start to specialize and do things like build a little microbiology lab and employ a microbiologist in the Northeast Kingdom,” Brickley said. “We can attract people to this area with cheese-making expertise and also create opportunities for local people to create a profession right in their backyards.”
In the future, Jasper Hill Farm is looking forward to selling their cheeses at Hardwick’s historic Yellow Barn, Brickley said. Located next to Route 15, the Yellow Barn was previously a car shop, the Greensboro Garage, and will soon be a hub for local commerce.
“The town of Hardwick has gotten state and federal funding to renovate and remodel the historic Hardwick Yellow Barn,” she said. “The vision is that the Yellow Barn itself is going to host a Cabot visitor shop and retail center, where they’re going to make a deliberate effort to focus on local artists and producers.”
The building will also serve as a space for the growing Farm Connects program with the Center for an Agricultural Economy, Brickley said. The Center for an Agricultural Economy, Jasper Hill, and the towns of Hardwick and Cabot will be coming together to drive returns on investments in the building back to the town of Hardwick, she said.
“There’s sort of like no out-of-pocket expense for the town of Hardwick. It’s a lot of coordination work, and then, hopefully, there’s going to be a bigger tax base and lease and the tenants of the building will be leasing it from the town of Hardwick,” Brickley said. “So, it’s like they’re building the shell, we’re outfitting our spaces, and we’re doing it in the spirit of collaboration and rural economic development, which I think is so heartwarming and inspiring.”
With all of this community-based development, Brickley has definitely noticed how local agricultural development has fueled local economic growth.
“It’s a cumulative effect with the other businesses that sort of started at the same time and have grown,” Brickley said. “There are new businesses popping up in Hardwick and there’s a vibrancy that, I think, is noticeable.”