Behind the scenes with our staff

This is the time of year when our programs, events, and Childrens Farmyard typically bring many of you back in touch with our amazing team here at Shelburne Farms.  Things are so different this year (we miss you!), but we still wanted to give you a chance to “visit” with our staff. Here are a few glimpses into what – and how – our staff have been doing since COVID-19 hit in mid-March, gleaned from our weekly staff newsletters.  We’re hard at work keeping the farm growing, students and teachers learning, the property humming, and food systems strong.  Thank you for your incredible support, now and always.  We hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes peek!

This week, Cat Parrish and Andy Whitaker started helping out fulfilling orders at the Intervale Food Hub in Burlington, replacing Chef John Patterson and Justin Peregoy. Cat will be working there on Mondays; Andy will be there Mondays and Wednesdays. John and Justin are now focused on developing prepared foods to sell at the Welcome Center. Thanks to all of them for pitching in to get healthy local food to our community!  [Staff newsletter, May 1]


Here’s Maddy Born making her last batch of Farm cheddar on April 30th. “It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later,” she says. Maddy is moving on to become Quality Assurance Associate with Rhino Foods. Meanwhile, Jack Duncan reports, “Cheesemaking is going smoothly and the milk has been beautiful! On the processing and shipping side, we are preparing for increased orders for Mother’s Day.” [Staff newsletter, May 1]  Read Maddy’s reflections on the impact Shelburne Farms has had on her.


Susie Marchand’s office mate at home is “Lulu,” a Buff Orpington chicken. When Susie sits down and opens the laptop outside, Lulu routinely walks over and stares up as if asking, “Can I join your Zoom meeting, too?” Susie usually obliges by scooping Lulu up onto her lap. “I swear she’s listening to everyone talk,” says Susie.  [Staff newsletter, May 1]


From Josh Carter, Market Garden: “This truckload of wood chips from the Farm’s fruit trees has a very special purpose, and reflects the work of a lot of people. It started when I pruned the fruit trees in the Market Garden and education garden, and Travis Bessette and Blake Harris pruned the trees at the Inn, Children’s Farmyard, and Lone Tree Memorial. Chef John and our three education fellows, Maisie, Lauren, Alice, picked up all the prunings and brought them to the firewood zone, and on Wednesday, Travis and Blake chipped it all into the back of the truck. The bed is full of apple and pear chips; the large buckets have peach and plum prunings. Why are the separated? For flavor, of course. Chef John Patterson will use the chips to smoke delicious meat this season. But first, the chips will be spread on tarps in the Market Garden pavilion, put in onion bags, and hung to dry.” [Staff newsletter, April 24]


In between answering the phones, handling all the incoming and outgoing mail, and helping mail order as needed, Aline LeClaire is busy painting the Farm Barn reception area, kitchen, bathroom and conference room. Wait until you see it! Aline is onsite in the Farm Barn on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  [Staff newsletter, April 24]


Over the past several weeks, lots of our educators have been recording short videos to share with Adventurers and with students at the Sustainability Academy. Simon Schreier did a short video on “Mushrooms and fungi”. Like all mushrooms, the puff ball mushrooms in the foreground reproduce by dispersing spores, not seeds. [Staff newsletter, April 17]


From Erin Boyd, Development: “I have been working on various data import and cleanup projects, running fundraising reports, sending out online appeals and listening to webinars about the fun untapped functionalities of our database! And for those of you wondering, I do have two screens set up at home. It isn’t quite like my Farm Barn workstation, but it still allows me to TCB (Elvis shorthand for “Take Care of Business”). When I’m not working, I have been spending lots of time with my pup Lola (all she wants to do is play frisbee), cooking away and preparing my vegetable garden.”   [Staff newsletter, April 17]


On Wednesday night, Christine Lutters and several other Farm staff made cinnamon buns “together” via a Zoom workshop led by Maisie Anrod! Christine’s two sons were helping her out, too. The baking crew had a lot of fun – all from their respective kitchens – and are excited to try a sourdough recipe next week. Thanks, Maisie!  [Staff newsletter,  April 17]


Travis and Blake helped to get some recently purchased trees in the ground temporarily this week. The new saplings will replace several young poplar trees along Poplar Drive and young sycamores along the Main Entrance road that didn’t survive their first season. The new saplings will be formally planted later this spring.”  [Staff newsletter,  April 10]


From Aimee Arandia Østensen, Education: “The professional learning team has a few programs that are mid-course so we’re continuing to engage educators as best we can virtually and postponing some necessary in person gatherings to the fall. The Education for Sustainability Leadership Academy kept their already scheduled virtual gathering last week. Jen Cirillo and I gathered with nearly all of our participants in a Zoom call and ended up using Zoom breakout rooms to have small group conversations with visual prompts pulled from Instagram (we’re fully embracing this online life!). The posts all focused on equity and diversity and the conversations were robust! We’re now deep in design mode as we dream up new offerings for exciting distance learning programs this summer[Staff newsletter,  April 10]


From Courtney Mulcahy, Education: “On Wednesday, Jorge Yagual and I joined Jen Cirillo to facilitate an online Farm to School curriculum development workshop for teachers, board members, and community partners in Grand Isle, Franklin NW and NE counties, hosted by Healthy Roots Collaborative. One activity, called “Special Food Memory,” involved hands-on art (using that term loosely!). We each drew a self-portrait with a special food in the ‘mouth’ and a written account of the memory in the ‘head.’ Everyone loved it! This was my first time ‘teaching’ online in this way and I was nervous because I feel like as a teacher, I’m so much better in person. But it worked pretty well and I learned a lot from the process. For example, practicing ahead of time (Susie, Kelly, & Cat agreed to be my testers!) really helped to refine the activity and make it work in the allotted time. As facilitators and participants, finding an approach that works for everyone, at all different levels of technological comfort and knowledge, has been interesting, but it’s been fun to learn!” [Staff newsletter,  April 3]


From Fanta: “Just chilling. I’m in during the day, then out at night catching moles and mice. I leave them on the doorstep for my human peeps. Cheers ‘em up. Because they’re working hard right now. Me, too. Hah!” (Fanta belongs to Alec Webb and Megan Camp, but really, she’s the Farm cat and mascot.) [Staff newsletter, April 3]


From Noel Perriello, the Children’s Farmyard: “The routine of being on the farm and caring for the animals in their winter quarters is refreshing and extra rewarding for me in these uncertain times. Communicating with hired programming staff that we could no longer offer them positions for the season was difficult, but everyone was kind and understanding and I have hope that I will connect with them again–if not this year, then maybe the next. Keeping my brain busy by thinking what “hands-on” agricultural education will look like moving forward and how we can connect with our farmyard visitors virtually in new and exciting ways!” (Photo: Zola and me in their winter area) [Staff newsletter, March 27]

Posted by Holly Brough

May 4, 2020

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