One of the advantages of working for Cabot is how, in the course of my job, my horizons are expanded beyond anything I could have imagined. Last week I had yet another work experience that came as a delightful and eye-opening surprise. Cabot's marketing team gathered for an off-site retreat. My experience with off-sites has been almost exclusively of the hotel meeting room variety. This gathering promised to take the concept of a work meeting to a whole new level.
Agritourism - Living the Farm Experience
We met at Liberty Hill Farm Inn, owned and operated by Bob and Beth Kennett and their sons Tom and Dave. Liberty Hill is one of more than 1200 Cabot Creamery Cooperative dairy farms. It is also a leader in the burgeoning field of agritourism. For over 25 years, Bob and Beth have been welcoming guests into their Greek revival farmhouse, built in the early 1800's and nestled near the banks of the White River and surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest.
Some come to Liberty Hill to experience life on a working farm. Others come for the beauty and tranquility of the Vermont countryside. Still others come for Beth's extraordinary cooking. Breakfast and dinner are served family style around a groaning farm table laden with fresh meats and produce, homemade breads, cakes and pastries and fairly ringing with conversation and laughter. In the winter visitors make their way to the many nearby ski areas or strap on snowshoes and explore the countryside. Summer might find them floating down the White River on innertubes or exploring the nearby villages of Rochester, Quechee, Middlebury, and Woodstock.
Kids Play Free!
Children, especially city kids, have amazing experiences at Liberty Hill Farm. They can help gather eggs for breakfast, feed baby calves, chase barn cats and cuddle barn kittens, or gather wildflowers in the field. The subtle education of a stay at the farm -- where food comes from, how it is gathered and distributed, and the importance of family farms -- imparts lessons that last a lifetime.
Advance and Retreat
Our group gathered to brainstorm around our social media and marketing plans for the coming year. Members came from as far away as San Francisco. I'm not sure what I expected, but I wasn't prepared for the warmth and welcome extended by everyone I met, farmers and guests alike. We worked for hours at a time, connected to the world at large by wireless internet access, in a spacious yet cozy living room, tucked into soft upholstered chairs surrounding a wood-burning stove. When our ideas were stalled or we needed a stretch, we donned our winter gear and made our way up Liberty Hill.
Lest this sound like a quick stroll to clear the head, I would describe Liberty Hill as...well, the word "daunting" comes to mind. It is a prototypical Vermont scene: a winding country road that goes twisting up the side of a mountain, just the thing to exercise our bodies and give our brains a rest. After an hour in the crisp winter air, the team was eager to get back to sharing ideas and solving problems.
Day two of our retreat began with a sunrise hike, again to the top of the hill to watch Mother Nature put on a show just for us...and our newly minted cow buddies. It was the perfect way to start the day. Breakfast, the most important meal of the day especially on a farm, also seems to be the most delicious. Beth prepared, among other tasty offerings, Cabot Cheddar scones with sweet Cabot butter, baked oatmeal with nuts and cranberries, segments of oranges and pink grapefruit, a broccoli, cheddar and egg casserole, and a seemingly endless supply of hot, strong coffee. Fuel for hard working farmers and hard thinking marketers.
It is impossible not to be productive in surroundings like we enjoyed at Liberty Hill Farm. Our off-site meeting felt like a week's worth of activity packed into two days. New relationships were forged, strategic plans created, and to-do lists made. We helped feed the chickens, visited with the cows, and even got to name the new baby, born the day we arrived.
As for the city-dwellers who work for the farm families of the Cabot Creamery Cooperative, we gained a unique and valuable insight into the importance of the work we do, spreading the word about these New England and New York dairy farmers and Cabot, makers of The World's Best Cheddar.
Sunrise from Liberty Hill