Templeton Farm

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Templeton Farm
3410 Center Road
East Montpelier, Vt. 05651


The Chapell Family and Templeton Farm

By Colin Blackwell

If you find yourself coming to a complete stop at the four corners of Lyle Young and Center Roads in East Montpelier you'll see a sign that reads "Templeton Farm Family Owned Since 1810." John Templeton Jr. settled there some 20 years after his father participated in the organization of the town.

By 1870, under the stewardship of Hiram Templeton, the farm had evolved from a subsistence settlement into agricultural production and operated with two oxen, one horse, sixteen cows, two cattle, twenty-two sheep, and two swine. That year, the farm produced 3,500 lbs. of butter, and 1,200 lbs. of sugar, 75 bushels of corn, 230 bushels of oats, 60 tons of hay, and 200 bushels of potatoes (U.S. Census of Agriculture).

Today, you cannot expect to see an ox treading away at the butter churn or freshly sheared sheep in the barnyard, but beneath the massive, 200-year-old maple tree canopies, agriculture is still taking place. Bruce and Janet Chapell are keeping a family heritage alive and well. On the 150-acre farm, they are producing maple syrup and pastured beef.

Bruce Chapell is the grandson of Hiram Templeton's daughter, Alice. In his youth, Bruce made frequent visits to the farm, helping Alice with summer chores, absorbing her love for agriculture and consequently enriching his relationship with the land.

In the summer of 1985, Bruce's long-distance relationship with the farm intensified. While living in Albany, Vermont, and raising sons Ryan and Seth, Bruce and Janet started building a sugaring operation at the farm. They dragged logs from the woods to be sawn for the sugarhouse and purchased used sugaring equipment. The seventh generation of land stewardship on Templeton Farm was underway. Three years later the family moved to the farm and built their home across the road from the sugar house.

Janet, a school teacher, and Bruce, at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, worked away from home full time. Their vision was to cultivate a part-time agricultural business that would also reconstitute a tradition for the family and generations to come. This vision was supported when they engaged with the Vermont Land Trust to preserve the land for farm use. Fairmont Farm has also played a crucial part in maintaining agricultural use by leasing crop lands from the Chapells.

Ryan and Seth took an interest in agriculture at a young age. They had farm jobs working for neighbor dairy farmer Jeff Sibley. In their early teens they had their own business raising replacement heifers under the old white barn. In high school they worked for Fairmont Farm learning the operations of dairy production on a larger scale. During his studies at Vermont Technical College and the University of Vermont, Seth developed a research project that led him to take a closer look at what it would take to make Templeton Farm more viable. The conclusion was to join Bruce and Janet to create a partnership in the maple business and begin a beef business.

The plan involved growing the sugaring operation to a size that could generate income to pay for advances in technology and upgrades. To do this the Chapells installed a vacuum tubing system on a leased sugarbush at the Riley family land on Foster Road. This would add well over 1,000 taps in addition to the 990 taps already in use. In a good year and with the help from many friends, they can make over 600 gallons of syrup.

The Templeton beef business germinated in the spring of 2010 when they purchased eight Angus steers to be pastured for the growing season. This summer around 35 cattle of various shapes, sizes and colors can be found roaming the meadows along Center Road. Beef is sold through on-farm sales and wholesale accounts. These include sales to restaurants, the Central Vermont Food Hub, and Rumney School. The Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick provides affordable freezer storage space, which makes Templeton Beef available in the neighborhood year round.

Bruce and Janet are retired from their off-farm jobs. Ryan lives in Peacham and works for UPS, and Seth is a dairy nutritionist for Bourdeau Bros. Feeds. He lives in Burlington.

This article was published in the July-August 2012 edition of the East Montpelier Signpost. Click here to download an original copy of the article.