Cheesemaking and chores: Public invited to Rebop Farm all next week

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WEST BRATTLEBORO — Rebop Farm's topography cannot be ignored.

"It's a hill farm, and it's got a great view," said Ashlyn McClurg, farm co-owner. "And it's like living on a stair stepper."

The West Brattleboro farm on Sunset Lake Road can be visited during chore time from 4 to 6 p.m. during Vermont's Open Farm Week, happening Monday through Aug. 20, with the exception of that Wednesday, when a cheese making class is scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. in the farm's kitchen. To sign up for the class, call 802-365-1974.

Rebop Farm "is highly diversified, grass based and organic," according to the rebopfarm.com. Raw milk can be purchased there and about seven kinds of meat are sold through a community-supported agriculture model.

"We intensively graze our Jersey/Guernsey dairy cows and our flock of Katahdin sheep, and pasture our rabbits, heritage turkeys, ducks, chickens, and pigs," the website said.

Given there's a lot of chicken producers around, farm-owner Abraham McClurg said, Rebop Farm will probably stop selling that type of meat in the future. The focus will be on more "hard-to-find" meats, Ashlyn said.

Rebop Farm is located on 32 acres, which Ashlyn considers "pretty small." Before buying the property last year, the McClurgs were farming for a few years on leased land in Newfane.

"It's been really lovely in the last year to make decisions that feel like the right ones for this piece," said Ashlyn.

Originally from North Carolina, she has been farming since her college days. Always wanting to work on a small farm, she said Vermont provided such "a wonderful support system" for achieving that.

Abraham grew up on a farm in Washington. For most of his adult life, he had not been farming. But that all changed when he came to the Green Mountain State four years ago.

"It's easy to come back to," he said.

Rebop Farm is part of the Vermont Fresh Network, which connects farmers with chefs and markets. The organization also helps with marketing, which Ashlyn said is the first thing to be dropped from the to-do-list for most farmers after a hard day of work.

Abraham and Ashlyn will sometimes get some help from neighbors, friends or customers. But a lot of the time, it's just them tending to the farm and animals.

"We have a really great community on this hill that show up," Ashlyn said. "We have a neighbor who keeps coming and weeding really early in the morning without a lot of prompting. I can't really keep up with the garden because it's not really a part of the farm. But it's where the majority of our food comes from."

Twenty shares in the CSA were sold this year, closing the program to additional customers. Ashlyn said a wait list has been created for next year.

The farm was named after the first tiny calf Abraham and Ashlyn bought together. It carries plenty of meaning for the McClurges.

The Jersey/Guenrsey cross is "great combination of breeds" and is used as a dairy cow, Ashlyn said. As a calf on an organic farm, her front legs were impaled by a goat's horns. She was given antibiotics and therefore could no longer be used for certified organic purposes.

The climate has been "very interesting" for the last couple years, Ashlyn said.

"When we moved here, it was a significant drought year," she said. "The pasture that you see open everywhere was not open grass. It was all overgrown and trees covered in invasive species. We had to cut it down and reestablish pastures."

Abraham said the property had historically been used for haying.

"Finding this place was a huge step forward for us," he said. "Finding affordable land that's suitable for farming is really challenging in the area."

Ashlyn said the grass and plants found at the farm is naturally good for the animals. The hilly nature at Rebop Farm is suitable for its purposes, according to Abraham.

Asked what's most rewarding, Abraham and Ashlyn almost simultaneously said "everything."

Abraham said he enjoys being "intimately familiar" with the food and knowing where it's made. Ashlyn added: "We regularly sit down to a meal where we grew every component of it and have such a connection to everything."

Now, they want to share their experience.

"Come here," Ashlyn said. "We're in such a beautiful spot. It's just so lovely up here. I really love our farm so I want to share it with people."

For more information on the Open Farm dates, visit diginvt.com/places/detail/rebop-farm

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.


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