Meet the Farmers at Brewster UplandsThe Brewster Uplands property includes two working farms, West Farm and Robtoy Farm.
Please note that while both farms host educational programs for local schools and community groups, they are not open to the public.
Sam Rowley – Robtoy Farm
Sam Rowley is an instructor for the Green Mountain Technology & Career Center. The center leases Robtoy Farm for its Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program.
As a teacher, Sam offers high school students hands-on agricultural experience. He teaches them to harvest, package, and sell vegetables back to the community (the center’s culinary program is a frequent buyer).
Students work with foresters and learn to fell trees as part of Brewster Upland’s forest management plan. They also care for the farm’s animals and fields, and educate elementary students who visit the property on field trips each fall.
As a farmer, Sam spends his off time making improvements to the land and overseeing Robtoy’s younger charges: a small herd of beef cattle, several chickens, and a gang of friendly goats. He’s an avid practitioner of rotational grazing, moving the cattle between paddocks every 24 hours so that fields aren’t overgrazed. This form of agriculture improves grass and herd health, restores soil quality, and sequesters carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere through traditional grazing.
Sam designed the rotational grazing system four years ago, then worked with funders and vendors to install a high tensile electric fence around and between the paddocks. The system also allows Sam to quickly provide water to the herd at each station.
“It’s been really cool to watch the pasture go from a beat-down hayfield to an incredibly lush pasture, full of life and diversity, that the cows are thriving on,” he said.
It’s a lot of work to keep an experiential farm running the way Sam wants. His goal is to inspire students to get into agriculture, keeping the land in use rather than purchased for development.
“Vermont has a great capacity to feed our population and our neighbors,” he said. “The only way to do that is to spark some interest in the people who live here.”
Angus Baldwin – West Farm
Just down the road from Robtoy, Angus manages West Farm with his partner Holly Simpson. In partnership with VLT, the pair shares their organic produce with community members that aren’t served through traditional supply chains.
West Farm is a commercial operation that provides produce for a regional organic cooperative selling to grocery stores. It functions as nonprofit farm so that Angus can provide herbs and vegetables to other lower-paying buyers such as hospitals and schools.
During the coronavirus, Angus has served as an advisor to the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program. West Farm acts as a packing hub for COVID-19-related food relief programs and has stored and distributed over 55,000 lbs of food to local food shelves.
Like Sam at Robtoy, Angus is deeply interested in improving the land and making it a better functioning system. Both farmers offer real-world examples of how to farm in a way that benefits people, plants, animals, and soil quality for generations to come. While Angus acknowledges that these methods increase the cost of the food you buy at the store, he also points out that they reduce the long-term negative impacts of conventional farming.
“We need to reevaluate what food is,” he said. “Food is health. It’s a component of healthcare, well-being, and the health of the community.
Angus was the subject of a collage by Vermont artist Bonnie Acker who created the piece for a joint VLT and Shelburne Museum exhibit called Eyes on the Land. Meet Bonnie, Angus, and others involved in the farm in this video.