Meet Vermont's 'Tomato Whisperer'

Published: Sep. 9, 2019 at 5:57 PM EDT
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The Woodstock Inn is known for its opulence, whether it's the rooms, spa or restaurant. But when it comes to the food, what you may not know, is that a lot of the fruits and vegetables are grown less than a mile away. Our Adam Sullivan takes you on a tour of the garden and introduces you to the "tomato whisperer."

On any given day, you're likely to find master gardener Ben Pauly hard at work at Kelly Way Gardens.

"He has created this amazing garden that fits perfectly into the valley," said Daniel Lapin of New Jersey.

In 2013, he was a concierge at the Woodstock Inn. But after brainstorming with the general manager, the idea to build a mini-farm just down the road quickly took off. It started as a vegetable garden on two-thirds of an acre and has grown much larger.

Guests come back to see the progress, like the Lapins who are visiting from New Jersey.

"We were tremendously impressed by Ben and what was an unfinished garden," Daniel Lapin said.

Ben Pauly is also known as the "Tomato Whisperer."

"I didn't give myself that name but it probably sounds a little better than the guy who walks around the garden and talks to himself," Pauly said.

If it can grow in Vermont, you'll find it here, but tomatoes are the specialty.

"I grow every year about 55 varieties and we change out about 20 times, so we've grown over 200 varieties over the last couple of years," Pauly said.

On this day, he's picking beets which will soon head back up the road to the Woodstock Inn.

"Everything we grow goes to the Inn, so I work with the chefs during the winter. We kind of plan A through Z, arugula through zucchini. How much arugula do we want per week? How much zucchini do we want? And we plan that for the gardens so we bring them exactly what they want," Pauly explained.

Actually, it's what the guests want, like the beet and berry salad. Everything but the goat cheese was grown less than a mile away.

"The food is amazing, especially the tomatoes, I will give a shout out to the tomatoes," Meredith Lapin said.

One of the highlights of the garden is the gourd tunnel. The Tomato Whisperer is an architect by trade, but he grew up on a 10-acre farm in the Midwest.

Guests also noted the beautiful flowers on the tables in the restaurant and all over the inn.

The garden books up quickly for private functions but the public is also welcome to come out and take a free tour. There is no need to bring your wallet, but you'd better bring your appetite.