133 Baltimore Rd., N. Springfield, Vt.
Penni Thomas knew when she returned to Vermont after living in Florida for several decades that she wanted to get back to her roots, farming and canning her own produce. So much so that even from her small Bellows Falls apartment, she began canning local produce right away while looking for a farm to purchase. From that fateful move, Thomas launched Penni’s Pantry in 2012.
Thomas eventually found and purchased a farm in North Springfield, which was the Old Bibens Farm, a property she knew well from when she was younger. After the farm was rechristened Hawks Meadow Farm, the name of the business followed suit.
Hawks Meadow Farm makes jams, jellies, salsas, relishes, pickles, garlic, hot peppers, and herbs. Most are sourced from from their own farm, and beyond that, from other local growers.
The last few years, the farm has emerged as a niche garlic producer. According to Thomas, “naturally grown local garlic is not common” so she has established a name for herself with local restaurants and other businesses who appreciate the many varieties and quality of her garlic. Her partner, Steve Haldeman, has been focused on growing all types of hot peppers and they’ve had a lot of success drying and selling fresh hot peppers and dried peppers, processed as pepper flakes. They plan on focusing and expanding the business in this savory direction.
Through partnerships with Winter View Farm, they add local honey and beef to their offerings. Thomas uses the honey in her jams and sells the honey products and beef along with her own products.
They do not sell through stores but have traditionally sold only word-of-mouth, and through farmers’ markets on the weekend, since both she and her partner hold down full-time jobs. This year, they will focus on setting up a permanent selling structure at their farm on the weekends so that they can continue to get more work done while they are selling. They plan to limit their farmers’ market appearances to once a month at the Saturday Springfield Farmer’s Market and at special events.
If that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Thomas is also a partner in her family maple sugaring business, E. C. Thomas & Sons, which was started by her great grandfather. Her cousin Joan Whaley now lives at that old family farm in Baltimore, Vt. The two of them will start this year’s sugaring sometime around mid-February and sell the maple syrup through the Hawks Meadow Farm’s farm stand.
You can follow the produce and happenings of the Hawks Meadow Farm and access their price list through their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HawksMeadowFarm.