Charlotte, Vermont - July 9, 2010
When Tom and Dave Kenyon travel Vermont's back roads, the father and son are proud to be part of the state's agriculture legacy.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to be on land like this that's so beautiful," says Tom Kenyon. He is a seventh generation farmer who's now taking the land in a new direction. "When the landscape isn't worked, we all know it grows up into brush or houses. And more houses is not my preference."
His ancestors ran dairy farms, but Kenyon is raising wheat and other crops. He works fields in Shelburne and Charlotte. Harvesting grain is dusty work and a hot job, too. But Tom Kenyon's not complaining. He chuckles, "Not with a crop out here like this!"
Thunderstorms would have ruined his wheat. Back inside the Charlotte headquarters, the farmer's sister, Catherine Kenyon, is packaging the ground wheat. "I guess I feel like Vermont is a very special place," she says.
Biodegradable bags bear the Nitty Gritty Grain Company label. "It's tended to personally, all the way through," Catherine Kenyon explains.
The line launched two years ago. The Kenyons sell organic cornmeal, pancake and muffin mix, wheat flour and more. Specialty food stores carry the products and bakeries buy wholesale for their breads.
"My name's on it," Catherine Kenyon notes. "I want it to be the best it can be."
"It's so tough as a farmer right now in Vermont," Dave Kenyon says.
Dave Kenyon hopes his dad's focus on his own consumer brand-- instead of producing animal feed or commodities for other companies to buy-- will help further boost Vermont's farming reputation.
"I think it's a good time to be in the food industry for organic foods," he adds. "People definitely want to know where their food comes from."
Baked into cornbread or other treats, the Nitty Gritty Grain is to big grocery store boxed lines what a Thanksgiving turkey is to cold deli meat; it has a fuller and earthier flavor.
The family wants to continue growing Nitty Gritty into a regional force in the food world. "And they can be confident they're eating the highest-quality food they can get their hands on," Tom Kenyon says.
He says Vermont farmers live by their integrity: "Your word should be your word."
And his word is that "Made in Vermont," means made with care.
The Nitty Gritty Grain Company's bags of pancake mix, cornmeal, and other products sell for between $4 and $6 at several area co-ops and independent markets, as well as online. Click here for more information.
Jack Thurston - WCAX News
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