By Johanna Setta, Certification Specialist Assistant for Vermont Organic Farmers
Benjamin Pauly of the Woodstock Inn and Resort Farm grew up on a diversified homestead with his family, farming a one acre plot. While working on this small farm, the family focus was vegetable and fruit production. To this day Ben still works in agriculture, but his work has taken on a different scope – he is actually a trained architect. The combination of his past and present specialties has allowed him to excel at directing landscape design and high yield and variety crop cultivation.
Ben started working at the farm in 2009 and is entering his third season of growing on the property, and his second season being certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers, the certification program of NOFA-VT. Ben’s job extends beyond farm manager into landscape architect and florist. He is passionate about growing flowers that he can then arrange for guests and public space at the Inn.
Once you start farming organically, you realize the soil is healthier and the output will be better and more nutritious.
Everything Ben grows is for the Woodstock Inn and Resort restaurant. The kitchen likes to think of itself as “farm inspired,” as the chefs source everything they can from the farm during the growing season and adjust menus based on what is available for harvest. In order to keep up with the demand of the kitchen, the farm will be expanding its facility with the construction of a high tunnel this season. Ben works closely with the chefs at the Inn to discuss which vegetables and fruits they are interested in utilizing during the upcoming season. He chooses a wide seed variety to allow for creative menu options. He makes sure to throw in some uncommon produce that might not be available wholesale like lemon cucumbers and malabar spinach. Malabar spinach is an all-time favorite of Ben’s; this heat loving vining plant can grow up to eight feet and is great for cooking with its thick fleshy leaves. In the 2015 growing season, the guests at the Inn can look forward to baby ginger and hops!
The Woodstock Inn and Resort Farm chooses to be certified organic because it forces them to be acutely aware of their growing practices and the condition of their soil. Although they would be growing in this manner regardless of certification, the organic certification process allows them to keep checks and balances on their practices.
“Once you start farming organically, and realize the soil is healthier and the output will be better and more nutritious, then it’s a no brainer,” says Ben. “You would never want to do anything that’s not organic.”
He feels organic certification helps tell a story about the farm; where they grow and how they grow. The Inn knows that is has a large presence in the village and feels that it is a huge accolade to show the community they are certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers. It is not only a source of pride for the Farm, but for the community as a whole. Although Ben enjoys explaining his farming practices while leading guest tours, being certified organic is an easy way to market the farm prior to guests arrival.
Ben has worked carefully on the design of the Farm’s two-acre plot and all of its steep slopes to create a space that is versatile. It is a multi-use farm in the sense that it is for production as well as a functioning educational space. On any given day in the summer you may find Ben giving tours of the farm to guests, hosting workshops for local groups like the gardening club, or tending to the two acres with his summer farm staff. Adjoining the farm is a half acre plot used for an event space. The Woodstock Inn and Resort is excited to use this beautiful space for weddings, meetings, and events. The farm allows guests to enjoy this bountiful land and experience where the tomatoes and shitake mushrooms they are having for dinner come from. Next time you are nearby, stop in and say hello to Ben and the Woodstock Inn and Resort staff for a special farm-to-table meal and a tour of the organic farm.