#####Bakers take an early morning break to admire a stand of wheat, north of the Farm Barn at Shelburne Farms, circa 1980.
Bakers take an early morning break to admire a stand of wheat, north of the Farm Barn at Shelburne Farms, circa 1980.

In 1973, just after getting married, Carla and I moved to Warren, VT where we began our first professional baking venture. Warren lies snug in the picturesque Green Mountains, along the Mad River Valley. We worked out of the back of the Warren Store, the ONLY store in town; which, while still maintaining the look and old-timey feel of its history, had yet grown quite modern in its tastes, more than capable to cater to the desires of skiers, tourists, and other upscale visitors drawn to the physical beauty of the area.

In 1977, we decided to re-locate to Burlington, the state’s largest city, situated on the shore of Lake Champlain. It’s a college town and a sort of “cultural hub” and at the same time it seemed to represent to us a more work-a-day world, a community less shifting and peripatetic than that of Warren. Here, we thought, we might establish relations with a clientele of year-round residents, neighbors. Put down roots, that sort of thing.

We felt we’d already sampled the potential and feel of ‘big-city-life” by making weekly sorties from Warren to the Burlington Farmers’ Market to sell our baked goods. The Market at the time was organized by the principals of Shelburne Farms, partly as an outlet for the produce from the gardens grown by the kid’s camps at the Farms.

We had our sights set on having a retail, store-front somewhere downtown. But when finding one became too daunting, we thought again of our acquaintances from Shelburne Farms. They had encouraged us to establish the bakery at The Farms and a visit to Shelburne one afternoon was enough to convince us. The magnificent agricultural estate is something you really must see to fully appreciate. (The property is open from May through mid October.)

Still a working farm, today the 1400 acre “campus” is home to the functions of furthering education in, and general awareness of, the prime importance of conservation of resources and sustainability. It has become an exemplar, with international repute, for those seeking to organize in pursuit of these goals.

Moving into the “castle-like” edifice called, simply, The Farm Barn, we set about procuring equipment and organizing the space to house the bakery. We located a couple 2nd-hand Hobart mixers, some old Blodgett roasting ovens that we lined with firebrick and a pair of beautiful maple work-table benches made for us by a wood worker friend in Warren.

~ Chuck Conway