“I constantly hear from people about wanting to buy local and support local. But driving out of town and down to Burlington to get stuff from the farms around here is not exactly buying local. Plus, reduce your footprint!”
Jennifer Bishop knows good food. Since the mid-1990s she has devoted much of her life to the culinary world in a plethora of ways that has built her knowledge, resources, and connections leading to the end result of The Farm Store.
Seated on a turquoise upholstered bar stool, Jennifer tells me about her colorful history in the culinary and agriculture world. She has held numerous positions in gourmet food stores, upscale and local-focused restaurants, and Whole Foods. After graduating with a degree in Culinary Sciences from Newbury College in Brookline, Massachusetts, Jennifer moved to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to work as an estate caretaker for four years. This job included such tasks as gardening and catering. “That’s when I started having a more direct line into sourcing the foods you’re using,” Jennifer tells me, explaining the farm-to-table approach of the meals she would construct for the family.
In 2001, Jennifer and her husband Noel moved to Fletcher, Vermont. In 2003 she started The Buying Club. Her customers in the Club would order things through Jennifer, and pick them up at Waiora Valley Farm. “Customers started inquiring about [Waiora’s] meats and wanting to purchase those. And I thought, ‘what if I ordered from Butterworks? Would people buy from me?’ And that is how by July 2010, the Buying Club slowly morphed into The Farm Store at Waiora Valley Farm. With all the contacts from wholesalers and farmers through the Buying Club, Jennifer had everything she needed to make a smaller version of what she sees The Farm Store as: A miniature farm stand meets natural food store. All of her items are hand-selected to keep people shopping and consuming locally.
But there is so much more to The Farm Store than meets the eye. Jennifer notes that all of the shelving and countertops were donated to her, continuing a sense of community in which Jennifer and many of her customers thrive on. “It had been lying around with no intentions,” Jennifer says of the wood board that was donated by a village resident that now serves as her countertop. She continues, “[they] were so excited about the store that they were very generous with what they had and wanted to see the store happen and flourish.”
Jennifer sometimes doubles as your very own private buyer. “If people have allergies, I like to search and find hard items to match their diets,” Jennifer explains. Spending a day with Jennifer it is easy to see that many customers rely on her for filling a void in one way or another. For some it is saving them the time and gas of driving to Essex or South Burlington, easily over an hour round-trip. For others, The Farm Store is a place to see a smiling face and pick up some organic and natural foods, otherwise not available in a 20 mile radius.
And for a customer today it was finding out she would have authentic Polish Babka for Easter Sunday from Cambridge artisan bakery, Slowfire Bakery. “I’ve never been able to find the real thing. Some of the stores in Burlington, I would get it but it would never be the same thing,’ the customer asserted, ‘never.”