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Real Easter basket grass

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With Easter around the corner Laughing Moon Chocolates in Stowe is hopping with activity.  Normally the Easter Bunny is the star of the holiday, but he has some competition this year.

The bed of grass he lies in -- Timothy hay -- to be exact. "Timothy has a gorgeous smell -- it's the most fragrant," said Hilary Hoffman, who came up with the idea of Tim's Real Easter Basket Grass. Hoffman started the business, The Vermont Hay Company this year, but this isn't the first time she has used real hay to fill her Easter baskets.

"For years when my kids were small I went to the barn and helped myself to the hay and used it for their baskets," Hoffman said.

It was after a friend pointed out that it was a clever idea that Hoffman got thinking. It was a business opportunity to provide people with an organic natural alternative to imitation plastic grass -- no chemicals, no artificial coloring -- just plain old Vermont hay.

"Plastic leaches chemicals and people want an alternative," Hoffman said. "Research shows that people are looking to eliminate petroleum based products from their household particularly when it comes to children."

The first cut hay is extremely dry and comes from a farm on the border of Canada -- in Canaan Vermont. "Timothy hay is one of the forage grasses that grows in Vermont used for feedstock," Hoffman said. "It has to be cut, dried and bailed the same day."

The four ounces of hay cost around $7 and Hoffman has sold 7,000 units so far. "I think this got as far as it did because it's a Vermont product," she said.

You can find Tim's Grass in 134 Whole Foods grocery stores around the country, at the Vermont Country Store and at Laughing Moon Chocolates in Stowe. But Hoffman said one of the biggest surprise customers was a ritzy one. The Ritz Carlton ordered it to fill Easter baskets for guests over the holiday. "A farmer way up the Northeast Kingdom grows this certified organic product. First time sold as non-feed stock and it makes its way to the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island, Florida -- it's a great story," Hoffman said.

A great story of supporting farmers and adding value to an agricultural product that any bunny would be proud of -- that's Made in Vermont.

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