The Barber Farm has stood in the town of Jericho longer than the United States has been a country — its soil was first turned in 1774 — but were it not for a chance meeting just over five years ago at a film festival, the farm might have vanished into memory.
The connection happened in Burlington at the Vermont International Film Festival, a rights-and-causes event that had booked a low-budget documentary called “The Barber Farm” (locals often use “the” when describing the place). The film had been made as a labor of love by Gretchen Siegchrist, 33, whose family had deep ties to the land going back to the 1940s. Part homage, part cry for help, Siegchrist’s film outlined the rich history of the farm as well as its current dilemma. It was an exceptional piece of Vermont farmland, but for almost two decades it had lain fallow. With no one willing to farm it commercially, time was running out.
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Jen Hazard, who reviewed a restaurant in our Spring issue, writes about food, family and travel, and her work has appeared in Maine Magazine, The Portland Press Herald and others. She and her family divide their time between Yarmouth, Maine, and Manchester, Vt.
1. How did you discover Sissy’s Kitchen, which you wrote about in Springs Out to Eat?
JH: We have friends that live in Middletown Springs, where Sissy’s Kitchen is based, and
they’ve always had great things to say about her food.
2. You divide your time between Manchester, Vt., and Yarmouth, Maine. How are the food scenes similar and different?
JH: Both are small, historic, family-friendly towns. Yarmouth has a lovely park with a river running through it. The mountains surround Manchester’s town park, which never gets old. I enjoy taking walks with my family in both places. The food culture is similar too. In Yarmouth, we have a neighborhood market in town called Rosemont that was recently mentioned in the New York Times for its focus on locally sourced foods and produce. In Manchester, I love Al Ducci’s Italian Pantry. Like Rosemont, they make great specialty foods (the fresh mozzarella comes to mind), and Al Ducci’s focuses on local products. And of course, both towns have wonderful farmers markets, although I wish Yarmouth’s market could be as lively as Manchester’s.
3. What are some of your favorite family-friendly activities in the Manchester area?
JH: Once a year, the Manchester Farmers Market allows area children to sell homemade baked goods and crafts. The kids set up small tables and take great pride in selling their work. It’s such a sweet event. We also love taking family hikes in the Ethel Pew Forest, which is practically in our own backyard, and the Equinox Preserve.
4. You write a lot — blogs, essays, feature stories — and you have two young children. How do you find the time?
JH: My children are 4 and 5 years old, so finding time to write is always a challenge. I work when the kids are at school or late in the evening. My in-laws are incredibly helpful too. I’m fortunate to have a supportive family and a reliable sitter!
5. What’s a dream story you are just dying to write?
JH: I have two books swirling around in my head right now — a potential memoir and a fictional story set in Maine. I just need more time!