Burlington, Vermont - August 31, 2007
Half Pint Farm lives up to its name. It has a small staff: just the two owners and a helper, and a line of very small products.
Mara and Spencer Welton were high school sweethearts in Denver who studied agriculture and moved to Burlington, dreaming of opening their own farm.
They found a niche in teeny-tiny vegetables, prized by chefs at upscale restaurants. They sell to ten of the Burlington area's fanciest eateries. Spencer Welton, "I think they're the best kind of vegetables."
He says, "Why isn't bigger better? With baby carrots, all you have to do is wash them. And we wash them well. They're ready to eat. They're sweeter when they're smaller."
Mara Welton adds, "Yes, we spend a lot of time picking things so they're at their prime age. It's our opinion, and chefs agree, that zucchini and squash when they're small are at their peak of flavor."
The Weltons rent from Burlington's Intervale Center, known as an incubator for young farms. In their fifth year working just an acre and a third, mostly without the help of machines, Half Pint has harvested some tidy profits, selling more than sixty thousand dollars worth of miniature vegetables last year.
Spencer Welton says, "When I was in school, people said you couldn't do it. You couldn't make a living off one acre."
That they can is a testament to the size of the localvore and slow food movements, people who don't blink at paying a little bit more for fruits, veggies, and other Made in Vermont food products from their neighbors.
The state Agriculture Agency says the Weltons' success is part of a larger story. More and more farmers today choose to sell pricier gourmet or organic foods.
Kelly Loftus of the Vermont Agency of Agency says, "With the talk of food safety and transportation costs, it just makes sense to know where your food comes from, know how it was grown, and know it didn't travel 5,000 miles to get to your plate."
Loftus adds many Vermont producers cash in on the state's brand name to sell to New York and Boston eateries. As for Half Pint Farm, they plan to stay just what they are: a business that thinks big, rooted in what's small.
Spencer Welton says, "I'm very happy to be part of the food culture in Vermont."
The Weltons teach agriculture in the off-season. They can profit as much as they do because the growing time for their mini vegetables is not nearly as long as for standard-sized veggies.
Half Pint Farm sets up shop at the Burlington farmers market Saturdays in City Hall Park, and at the New North End farmers market Thursday afternoons in Ethan Allen Park.
You will find a link to the farm's website at the top of this article.
Jack Thurston - WCAX News - Made in Vermont
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