Thomas Hark, President of the Western Slopes Business Association, is pleased to announce that Carol Shallow of Richmond, VT is the Association’s new Member Relations Coordinator. Carol is responsible for engaging, orienting and supporting Western Slopes Business Association members and communicating with potential community businesses, organizations and professionals about the Western Slopes Business Association. With a mission to create healthy and strong communities by supporting the local business, organization and professional communities of Bolton, Huntington and Richmond, the WSBA Board is excited to have found someone who brings WSBA a diverse set of skills from her work in education, Web development and Internet marketing. Carol is enthusiastic about meeting business owners, organizations and professionals in our vibrant communities to share what the Western Slopes Business Association can offer them.
Carol grew up in Southern Vermont. After spending time in Rhode Island and Colorado, earning degrees from Brown University and Colorado College, Carol returned to Vermont, married and began teaching. She has lived in Richmond for 19 years with her husband Jim and children Nick and Molly. She enjoys running, hiking, skiing and painting the great natural areas of the Western Slopes of Vermont.
Carol can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 434-5807 to answer any Association questions, including membership or advertising/website opportunities.
On a beautiful October day I ventured to Huntington to tour the Midnight Goat Farm, a family-run Grade A Goat Dairy and Creamery located in Huntington Vermont. Their six pasture-fed Alpine goats are milked daily by hand producing handcrafted artisan Chevre vegetarian cheeses in raw milk micro-batches. All ingredients of their creamy vegetarian Chevre original, garlic and herbed cheeses are all natural with no fillers or preservatives. Yves Gonnet, my tour guide and owner of the farm, showed me the operation from goat to cheese and introduced me to the goats, Shawna, Dawn, Nettie, Una, Whoopie, Phyona & Buck. Shawna is clearly the boss of the "outfit." During my tour I came to realize the incredible amount of regulation a goat farmer and cheese producer must deal with making me appreciate the goat cheese I purchase at the Richmond Market & Beverage even more.
Larry: Tell me a bit about yourself. Where were you born, grew up, went to school, previous careers, interests, hobbies, family, how you came to live in Huntington… Yves: I was raised in New York City in a French speaking household and am a first generation US citizen on my father’s side. I lived and went to school in the Big Apple for my first 22 years. I have worked in importing, retail, nonprofits and technology companies. I fell in love with Vermont early on during family vacations. I have always enjoyed the outdoors and tranquility of the country. I moved to Vermont 17 years ago, when my oldest son was 1. I have been in Huntington almost 7 years now.
Larry: What would people be surprised to know about you? Yves: Although I was raised a city boy and was a computer geek for most of my life, I love to build things of all kinds and have, in fact, made wood floors for our house. I cut down the trees, used an Alaskan Sawmill to make the boards, planed, sanded and routed each piece that is now our living room floor.
Larry: When did you start Midnight Goat Farm and what prompted you to? Yves: We started the business at the end of 2010. After 25 years in technology I was looking for a change. I have always enjoyed cooking and brewing and actually started working each morning before school when I twelve making breads, custards and soups for a small catering service in the neighborhood. In the Fall of 2010, my wife suggested I take a class on making cheese at CVU. I was fascinated with it and how you could make so many tasty varieties of cheese from so few ingredients. I came home that night and asked my wife if we could get some goats. Luckily, she’s an animal lover and readily agreed even though neither of us had ever owned a goat. Once my new path was determined, I spent all my time visiting goat farms, reading tons of books on cheese and goats and working on my cheese making skills.
Larry: How did you name your business Midnight Goat Farm? Yves: Because Midnight is when the magic happens!
Larry: What do you find most satisfying about operating your goat farm and cheese making business? Yves: Goat kisses! And, of course, I get to see people enjoy what I have made.
Larry: Is your goat to cheese operation regulated? By who? How much is it regulated? Yves: ANR, Health Dept, FDA, USDA, VT Ag – ANR for site permitting, water use & waste disposal. Health Department for Water quality. VT Ag for Farm inclusive of animal housing & treatment, milking, cooling, sanitation & cleaning, water supply and raw milk transport. VT Ag for Plant for processing, storage, sanitation, Laboratory certification, scales, refrigeration, water supply, labeling, bathroom. VT Ag uses Federal FDA & USDA rules with minor changes. FDA nutritional labeling.
Larry: Having toured your operation, I am very impressed with how incredibly clean your milking and cheese making facilities are. Your creamery, where the cheese is actually made, is especially clean. Did you have to build such an ultra-clean creamery? Tell me about some of the special facility requirements. Yves: The milking parlor is more sanitary than required, but I believe that is one of the reasons that our cheese is less "goaty" than other brands. As for the creamery, the rules are quite stringent. We have to abide by the same rules that larger creameries like Cabot follow. For instance, all the surfaces are impermeable, the floors are sloped and there is a ton of stainless steel. We have a little more light than required, by a few lumens, but that was unavoidable with the technology we use. I’ll never forget an early visit by an inspector who said we needed more paint on the ceiling. It is so thick now that it acts as insulation!
Larry: Are your products organic? Yves: We bought our goats from a farm which was organic, but had recently decided to reserve the right to give their goats non-organic medicine. We have followed in their footsteps and have elected to be able to choose the goats health and comfort over being certified organic. I should mention that our goats are pasture fed using an intense rotational grazing method moving their browse area daily.
Larry: What do you find most challenging about operating Midnight Goat Farm and how have you solved those challenges? Yves: There are always surprises working with animals and nature that change your plans for the day. For instance, I have one goat who out of the blue decided she didn’t want to eat out of the black food dish any more. I can’t have an animal not eating so my day’s mission suddenly changed to figuring out how to get her to eat — she now prefers red feeding dishes in case you’re wondering. I’ve learned to ‘go with the flow’ more, be more flexible and not stress things like the weather that I can’t control.
Larry: What has surprised you most about operating your business? Yves: How gratifying it is. Despite the long hours I find myself laughing more than ever and feeling more satisfied about my job than I can ever remember. It’s often the small things that make me smile. Like the goats wagging their tails in excitement when I see them each morning or every time I nervously taste a finished batch and it came out just the way I wanted.
Larry: Where and how are your products sold? Are Midnight Goat Farm cheeses sold in local retail locations? Where? Served in area restaurants? Where? Yves: We have been selling locally at Beaudry’s in Huntington since June. Recently, we also started selling at the Richmond Market & Beverage as well as in Shelburne/Charlotte at YourFarmStand.com. We are featured at Mary’s Restaurant in Bristol and can also be found at area Farmer’s markets and special events.
Larry: What marketing methods have proven most successful? How effective is the web in marketing Midnight Goat Farm cheeses? Yves: We are on a shoe string budget and have been creating all our own marketing materials – website, logo, table top displays, etc. We have also been lucky enough to be invited by local businesses like Maple Wind Farms, Beaudry’s, Huntington River Vineyard, Richmond Farmer’s Market and others to events that they are hosting where we can invite people to sample our cheese.
Larry: What is in the future of Midnight Goat Farm? Yves: We currently sell every ounce of chees we make. Future plans include more cheese, more types of cheeses and more places for people to get and enjoy our cheese.
Larry: As a new member of WSBA what would you like the Association to be doing for your business and others? Yves: I think it’s important for WSBA to emphasize the great small businesses that produce products and services locally. I knew of several local businesses as a consumer, but found many more once I really started really researching local products and sales outlets. Networking, and information sharing are key elements which drew me to WSBA.
Help Midnight Goat Farm Grow.
Ask for Midnight Goat Farm Cheese at your favorite restaurant!
PS – Look for Midnight Goat Farm cheese at these upcoming events.
November 10, 11am-3pm at the West Monitor Barn – Richmond Community Harvest Festival!– Richmond Elementary Farm to School invites you to celebrate local farms and food at the 3rd Annual Harvest Festival.
November 10, 11 AM – 3 PM, West Monitor Barn – Richmond Community Harvest Festival – Richmond Elementary Farm to School invites you to celebrate farms and food at the 3rd annual festival. The event is free of charge and open to children of all ages. There will be loads of activities including grinding grain, making corn cakes, seed art, blending bike-powered smoothies, climbing on hay bales and much more. Enjoy a local lunch and dessert, listen to live music, and bid on great items in a silent auction.
Richmond Moves from Town Administrator to Town Manager Response to WSBA Questions by Neil Boyden and Chris Granda, Richmond Select Board. October 31, 2012
Larry: Who is responsibile for the management of Richmond? Neil, Chris: The overall responsibility lies with the elected Select Board. The Select Board determines policy and management goals put in place for the Town.
Larry: Who decides whether the Town will have an administrator or a manager? Neil, Chris: Richmond voters decided in March of 2012 to go to the Town Manager form of government. Voters favored the change by voting 720 yes & 312 no.
The Select Board created two different citizen committees in advance of the vote to determine if the change should occur and what changes would be needed to the Town Charter to move to the Town Manager form of government. A governance committee was formed and met from October 2010 through June 2011. Their recommendation to the Select Board was to move to the Town Manager form of government. Next a charter change committee was formed and was charged with recommending changes to the Town’s Charter to allow for the Town Manager form of government. A Select Board representative assisted each committee through the process.
Larry: What role does our current Town Administrator play in the management of our town? Neil, Chris: The Select Board has had a full-time Town Administrator since 1992. This position has changed over the years, from handling routine administrative tasks to managing more and more of the day-to-day activities of the general government. At the same time, the town government has changed and grown more complex, with the challenges of meeting state and federal mandates and the need for modernizing the way the town conducts business. The expectations of the Town Administrator have grown to the point where a statutory Town Manager would function better.
Larry: What is the difference in a Town Administrator vs. a Town Manager? Neil, Chris: A Town administrator is directed by the Select Board as to what role he or she plays in the management of the town. As Select Boards change so can the duties. A Town Manager is directed by Select Board, Town Charter and State Statute. In Richmond’s case, the Manager is responsible for daily financial, employee and operational oversight.
Larry: Why is Richmond moving from a Town Administrator to a Town Manager? Neil, Chris: The Richmond Select Board is a part-time volunteer body charged with management of the Town which conducts business in regular meetings held twice a month. In this day and age and with annual budget of around 3 million dollars we need a Manager on the job with the authority and responsibility to make decisions and provide oversight of routine business on a daily basis so that citizens are not forced to wait until the next Select Board meeting for answers to questions. A professional Town Manager is expected to have a higher qualification level than a Town Administrator, and is therefore charged with statutory responsibility. This authority of the Town Manager allows the Select Board to concentrate more on policy direction and setting goals for the growth of the town, without spending time on the tedium of daily service delivery.
Larry: What impact will the change have on the Select Board, Town financials and other Town boards, committees and employees? Neil, Chris: This change will allow the Select Board to focus more on policy, guidance and the future needs of Richmond rather than spending countless hours on the daily operations of the Town. It will provide improved financial oversight and accountability with the Manager form of government. Town boards and committees will have a "go-to" person to get questions answered on a daily basis. Appointments to these boards and committees will still lie with the Select Board. Employees will report to the Town Manager and be able to get daily guidance if needed. It’s important to note Richmond has had a Town Administrator for more than 20 years.
Larry: What situations, if any, will citizens of Richmond interface now with the Town Manager instead of a Town board or committee? Neil, Chris: The Town Manager is responsible for managing all of the departments of the town, except for elected officials. Therefore, citizens should contact the Town Manager first for all concerns with any of the various departments to allow the Town Manager to solve the problem by utilizing town employees. Having a Town Manager in place gives residents a direct point of contact for the functions of the town to deliver services. Select Board members should be contacted if the Town Manager is unable to resolve the problem, or in cases of discussion of policies or projects that a resident may want their elected Select Board to respond to.
Larry: Has the selection of our Town Manager occurred? If yes, who was selected? Neil, Chris: Yes, Geoffrey Urbanik is our current Town Administrator and at the Select Board meeting on October 1, 2012 the Board agreed not to pursue an open solicitation for the position of town manager, but to offer it to Mr. Urbanik. He is currently reviewing a draft employment agreement.
Larry: What was the process for selecting our Town Manager? Tell me about our new Town Manager. Neil, Chris: Richmond was already considering the transition to a Town Manager during the town’s last recruitment process for a new Town Administrator in late 2009. At that time, a special emphasis was placed on finding a candidate that could fill the role of a Town Manager in the future if the Town decided to go in that direction. The successful candidate, Geoffrey Urbanik, met that need. Geoff took over the Town Administrator position in January of 2010 after an eleven year career in municipal government in New Jersey. Geoff has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Seton Hall University and has worked as a Town Administrator and Borough Manager in towns similar in size to Richmond. In his time as Richmond’s town administrator, Geoff has shown himself to be both talented and capable. He has the support of the Select Board and is popular with the citizens of the town. We expect that he will be an excellent Town Manager.
Richmond Holiday Market & Silent Auction – December 1, 2012
Great news! – This year we have over 50 vendors and our committee is gearing up for the 9th annual Holiday Market! New this year — we are going to use the renovated space in the Teen Center at the Town Hall for 8 vendors, as well as the upstairs, The Richmond Free Library, and The Richmond Congregational Church. Market Hours are 9:00 am. – 3:30 pm. Santa visits and horse buggy rides from 10:00 AM – Noon. There’s something for everyone from music to great food and new artists to returning crafts-people. Local and Vermont displays. Join the fun.
Full schedule is here.
Save These Dates:
December 1, 2012: Richmond Holiday Market & Silent auction