Templeton Farm

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Templeton Farm
3410 Center Road
East Montpelier, Vt. 05651


Final Burger Night of 2022 - 243 Served!


Article from Times Argus weekend edition

It's a picturesque summer evening and burgers are sizzling on the grill, the summer salads are prepped and the iced tea is chilling. Plus, there is ice cream in the freezer for sundaes with maple syrup and whipped cream. It's a perfect evening for you and your family to enjoy — along with 243 of your closest friends. That was exactly the scene at Templeton Farm in East Montpelier on July 13 when farm owners Bruce Chapell and Sherry Miller, along with their sons and their families hosted a burger night on the farm.

The ninth-generation beef and maple producers prepared a meal that featured vegetables like lettuce from nearby Ananda Farm in East Montpelier, potatoes and tomatoes from Pete's Greens in Craftsbury, ice cream from Kingdom Creamery in East Hardwick and, of course, the beef and maple syrup produced right at Templeton Farm. It was the second of two burger nights held this year, and the event has grown in popularity and become an important gathering for the community, as well as a way to showcase and support local food producers.

"It was a classic Vermont summer night, with perfect weather," says Anson Tebbetts, secretary of the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, who was in attendance at the July 13 event. "You could smell the beef on the grill, the salads were all lined up." And, to round out the offerings, beloved local musicians Patty Casey and Colin McCaffrey provided dinnertime tunes, while guests played lawn games, like corn hole, in the grass.

This was the second year Templeton Farm added a burger night to their operation. The first time was in 2018, before the pandemic caused them to take a few years off. The Millers had heard about a similar event, which has become wildly popular, at Bread and Butter Farm in Shelburne, so they took the family, including their young granddaughters, to check it out. "It was huge," says Chapell, "they had about 500 people, and it required a lot of people to run it."

The first burger night at their own farm hosted 80 people in an addition on their sugarhouse, followed by a second burger night that year with 125 people in attendance. But that spot in the sugarhouse, says Chapell, was very vulnerable to the weather. This year, they hosted burger night in a 40-foot by 60-foot hay and storage barn, with good coverage in case it rained, though thankfully it didn't. They have also purchased numerous tables, four grills, cooking utensils and even a porta-potty for the event, plus special insurance. And they added a bandstand to host local musicians during dinner, which is a really important part of the evening, says the couple.

"There are a lot of moving parts to this thing," says Chapell. There is ordering the food, too, which can be quite a unique challenge. A week before the event, they had 120 reservations for dinner purchased through PayPal, so they bought enough food for twice as many guests, hoping that would be enough, but also not too much. "Farmers take a lot of financial risks," says Chapell, "and this is no different."

Of course, that food all has to be prepped and prepared, a major undertaking in itself led by Miller and a team of about 20 volunteers comprised of their family and friends. The day before burger night, the group does all of the prep work for the big meal: They're making beef patties, freezing lemon ice cubes, chopping salads, parboiling potatoes and mixing maple dressing and a marinade. On the day of the event, they make iced tea and roast the parboiled potatoes with onions, butter and parsley in huge ovens in the their kitchen. Then, later, they grill 81 pounds of burgers and 17 marinated portabella mushroom caps, which they offer to vegetarian guests.

"Huge — underline huge — effort goes into pulling this thing off," says Chapell.

It's the same story at Baird Farm in Chittenden, where Jenna and Jacob Baird just hosted their second burger night at their farm. This year, they're adding local brewer Liambru Tasty to the evening as well.

"It's a ton of work," says Jenna, "but there's a few reasons why we do it."

Last year, the couple started working with Jamie Hamilton, of Hamilton Cattle Co., who is raising 65 beef cattle being pastured on the Bairds' land. Since Hamilton had just started his beef business, it was a chance to launch his business and gain exposure to new customers.

Plus, says Jenna, "It is a great way to bring our local community together." While last year, Jenna noticed that most of their 120 reservations were people she knew, this year, there were 140 people and lots of new faces and names.

"It's really more about building community," says Jacob of the event. "There's an education component, too," he adds. "We do a pasture walk, and people can walk the pasture with Jimmy and ask him questions about pasture management." Plus, say the Bairds, they see increased traffic to their farm store after these events, which includes their own maple products and Hamilton's beef for sale.

That community benefit is important to the Millers, too. Bruce says whenever he goes into town, people ask him when he's doing another burger night. Tebbetts says he enjoyed that he reconnected with people that night whom he hadn't seen since the last burger night he attended four years ago.

During dinner at Templeton Farm, the whole family gathers in front of the crowd of people in attendance to introduce everyone and thank their guests for coming. "Part way through the evening," says Chapell, "we introduce the whole family and all of the local suppliers. We feel very strongly to promote local foods."

There are chalkboards on display, too, with some facts and figures that put the meal in context: 90% to 95% of food consumed in Vermont is imported. The average food travels 1,500 miles from its source to your plate.

"We're proud we can serve this food all sourced within, I say 50 miles, but I think it's 25," says Chapell. In this way, he adds, burger night not only benefits Templeton Farm, but other local growers and producers as well.

It's what brought Tebbetts to the event that night, too, in addition to the delicious meal and being a longtime friend of the Millers. "These on-farm events are very valuable to the local economy," says Tebbetts. Plus, he adds, "It's a great way to educate the public. This event brings people to the farm, to see the animals on the farm, and offers an opportunity to get to know the farm a bit more."

It's an event that takes a ton of time and energy, plus an outlay of cash to get it going, but still, say Miller and Chapell, it's worth it. For one, they are able to make their money back, plus a little extra, but that is in large part thanks to the people who volunteer.

"Without our family and friends volunteering," says Miller, "this would not be profitable at all."

There is also the increased exposure for the farm and a chance to connect with new and current customers alike. There are a lot of farms out there, points out the Millers, that do beef and maple, so they have to set themselves apart from the pack. Burger nights are a chance, says Miller, to show people where the farm is, see the farm store, and taste a delicious burger. And that translates to new customers: When they did their first burger night in 2018, they noticed a 20% increase in sales at the farm store that year.

"When you live on a back road in East Montpelier," says Chapell, "nobody knows where you are. We need to come up with ways to enlighten people about who we are and what we're all about."

If you're looking to check out an on-farm event, Baird Farm is hosting The First Great North American Maple Pie Contest on Aug. 14. The event is part of a full lineup around the state during Open Farm Week, being held this year from Aug. 7 through Aug. 14.