Up on a hill above the small town of Townshend in southern Vermont is Big Picture Farm, where artist Louisa Conrad and her husband, Lucas Farrell, an award-winning poet, make goat-milk cheeses and award-winning caramels and manage three idyllic Airbnbs. Conrad, whose beautiful artwork of her goats and farm life now graces the Big Picture website, its caramel packaging, and other products, shares how a city girl who grew up in Manhattan and Paris found herself caring for a herd of fifty goats.
Did you and your husband always plan to own a farm?
No. We went to Middlebury College in Vermont, where Lucas and I first met, and then we both went to graduate school—I went for my master’s degree in Los Angeles, and he went for his in Montana. After that, we couldn’t agree on a place to live, except for Vermont. So we came back here and got jobs. My husband was teaching at a local college, and I taught art to kids. We were going to stay in teaching, but it was 2008, when the economy tanked, and it didn’t seem likely we both would be able to continue working in the same location.
We had planted a garden in Vermont and really wanted to put down roots here. We reached out to a local farm and asked if we could work for them, and they offered us a six-month apprenticeship. We fell in love with goats, and our interest in making goat’s-milk caramels took over. We feel lucky that we switched gears.
Why did you start making caramels?
I’ve always been obsessed with cheese, and when I lived in Paris as a little girl, my mom would get me big hunks of it. I also always wanted to make cheese, and that’s how Lucas and I got into raising goats. In Vermont, the cheese landscape was well established in 2010, and so we were a little bit daunted since there were already so many amazing cheese makers in the state. Most specialty food stores have confection corners, so we thought it would be cool to make caramels and tell the story of the goats through these sweets. As an artist and a writer, we liked the idea of our products being gifts that include a story.
How did you start your goat-dairy farm and confectionery?
When we came here in 2010 to work for the farmers who owned our farm, they allowed us to bring three goats as part of the deal. They had an active farmers market booth, and I worked it with them. We were allowed to sell our caramels as well. At first, we cooked them in our home kitchen and then we moved to a commercial space in town to make them. In 2011, we bought some land from the farmers, and then in 2012, we bought the farm buildings from them and moved our operation here. In 2017, we bought the last bit of the farm from them.
How did you choose the flavors for your caramels?
All our flavors, such as our Brown Butter Bourbon and Cider Honey, are locally inspired. When we were in the shared kitchen space before we owned the farm side of our property, our next-door neighbor made chai and said his chai spice would be a perfect flavoring for our caramels, so now we make a Chai caramel. One of our other flavors is Maple Cream, which is an obvious one since we are in Vermont. As far as the Cocoa Latte, I have always loved white chocolate and espresso. Our Raspberry Rhubarb incorporates a local raspberry-rhubarb blush wine. The flavors in the wine are already distilled down, so it adds a subtle flavor to the caramels. Our original Sea Salt and Vanilla caramel put us on the map, and we also have a delicious Wild Chocolate Mint.
Was there a big learning curve when you started your farm?
The first three to four years of running the farm were a bit insane. To try and get things going, we were firing on all cylinders and working about eighty hours every week between running the farm and starting the business. But now that we have our kids, it’s harder to pull off that kind of momentum. We have more of a forty-hour-a-week schedule now because our children demand our attention. The average workday has changed—in the beginning we were doing everything ourselves, and now we have an amazing team. But there are still so many moving parts, so we have to do just about everything, like being an electrician, a plumber, and a mechanic because there is always something that needs extra attention. I do the sales and the marketing, and my husband handles the accounting and the books in addition to all the big tractor work. We have six people who help us full time, and they make the caramels and the cheese, milk the goats, help with our Airbnbs, and ship all our caramels.
Do you enjoy living in the countryside?
I like the pace of life, eating and growing my own food, and seeing bees, birds, and flowers. The first two years of owning the farm were more of an adjustment. I was missing my lattes and opportunities to wear high heels. I used to miss riding the subway and the bustle of the city, but when I visit my parents, who still live in Manhattan, I now get a little flustered.
Do your young daughters, Maisie and Minna, help on the farm?
They do. They are still little, but Maisie, who turned six this year, likes to do chores and feed the animals, and Minna, who is two, is partial to our barn-cat population that often has kittens in the spring. She does a really good job of raising A-plus kittens that we give away to other people.
Big Picture Farm is a certified Animal Welfare Approved farm. What does that mean?
Animal Welfare Approved is the highest certification you can get in terms of animal welfare. According to the certification, the animals have to be outside on pastures, and in the winter when they can’t be outside, they need to have a certain amount of space, and they need quality feed. It is a big deal. We are really proud of it, and we work hard to maintain it.
What can visitors experience at your farm?
We offer goat hangouts, where people can sign up online and come and snuggle with the goats. Those hangouts are really popular, and people love to have uplifting moments with the goats as opposed to just looking at them from the other side of the fence. We also have three Airbnb properties: a one-bedroom, a two-bedroom, and a nine-bedroom. It’s great because they allow people to stay at the farm, wake up and see the lovely hillside and the beautiful birds, hear the rooster crowing in the morning, and wander around. It gives them the full experience of the farm, which I really like being able to share with people.
For more info, visit bigpicturefarm.com
With the holiday season in full swing, it’s a great time to go out and experience events taking place from coast to coast. From tree and menorah lightings to parades, live entertainment, exceptional cuisine, and family fun, you’re sure to find a local or regional celebration that appeals to you.
Village of Lights: Christmastown
Starting in early December, plan a visit to this Bavarian-style town’s magnificent Village of Lights: Christmastown. In addition to enjoying over half a million lights, you can join in the fun with the various holiday festivities, including music and entertainment, photos with Santa, carolers, holiday characters, and more.
Explore Disneyland as it celebrates diverse cultures with the Disney Festival of Holidays. Enjoy many types of music, food, and other seasonal festivities and traditions, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, and Kwanzaa.
Hop on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad’s Santa Express Train for a trip to the North Pole to pick up Santa himself. Along the way, kids are treated to hot cocoa, cookies, and stories—and each ticketed child will also receive a special gift from Saint Nick.
Known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria, this Midwest town welcomes one million visitors from around the globe each year and boasts the world’s largest Christmas store. With its two square miles of boutique-lined streets, dazzling light displays, music shows, horse-drawn carriages, ice rink, and other festivities, it’s the perfect setting to celebrate the holidays with the entire family.
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
Explore a myriad of festival trees and displays that will help you delve into the customs and traditions of more than fifty countries, from Assyria to Wales, and discover the meaning behind various cultures’ lighting traditions.
Night of the Luminaria and Living Windows
Bask in a luminary spectacle of more than 5,000 lights that bring the holiday season alive in this northwestern Illinois town. You can also revel in the holiday spirit as retail shop windows come alive on Main Street and enjoy extended shopping hours during this day of fun and adventure.
Christmas Illuminations at Mount Vernon
Enjoy an evening of family fun with a captivating cascade of holiday lights while watching fireworks bursting over the Potomac River. Listen to holiday music classics as you saunter through the lit-up Historic Area, and take in history by touring George Washington’s mansion.
This three-mile driving tour boasts over 750 radiant light displays, and when you’re done you can indulge in shopping, dining, train rides, and other festive fun at places like Winter Wonderland and Santa’s Village.
Get ready to run for latkes at this Hanukkah 5K and 1M Dreidel Race. Whether you walk or run, enjoy a morning of fun with family members and friends, and then leave with a cool swag bag filled with goodies.
There’s nothing like New York City during the holidays, and the legendary Rockefeller Center is at the heart of it all. In addition to shopping and dining, you can take in the splendor of its world-renowned Christmas tree, join in the fun of skating at the Rink at Rockefeller Center, and see the Radio City Rockettes.
This festive outing will take you on a trolley ride around Boston proper as you hit the best holiday spots in town. Visit places like Boston Common, Copley Square Tree Lights, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall Lights, with each excursion having its own itinerary.
Voted by USA Today readers as the best botanical garden holiday lights in 2021, A Longwood Christmas showcases an array of breathtaking floral designs and decorative plants and trees. With its half-million fantastical lights throughout the gardens, you’ll feel as though you are in a winter wonderland.
The holiday season is a great opportunity to break out your baking sheets and make a sweet treat to help brighten someone’s day. Cookies can make for the perfect gift since they’re often easy and relatively quick to bake, so why not make a batch or two this month?
Sugar-cookie cups are filled with custard and topped with caramelized sugar in this gooey cookie recipe.
These rich, peppermint-coated cookies are the perfect complement to a glass of milk.
recipe by patterson watkins
photos by patterson watkins
Offering a scrumptious twist on a classic sugar-cookie recipe, these treats are sure to be a hit at your next holiday party.
Yield: 2 dozen cookies
Tip: Need a time saver? Use store-bought sugar-cookie dough instead of homemade!
recipe by patterson watkins
photos by patterson watkins
Chocolate and peppermint are a classic combination, and these tasty cookies are no exception. This delicious recipe makes for a decadent holiday treat.
Yield: 4 dozen cookies
New Year’s Eve is our chance to say goodbye to the current year while ringing in the next; however, New Year’s celebrations aren’t one-size-fits-all since what is fun for one person might not work for another. So, to say so long to 2022 and hello to 2023, consider having a celebration that fits your personal interests and preferences.
New Year’s Eve is a great excuse to get out of the house and have some fun. If you’re looking for a party, gather a group of friends, get dressed up, hire a babysitter, and dance the year away. If that’s not your thing, most cities tend to host official celebrations, so check your local municipality’s website for events. There could be a fireworks show, festival, or parade going on in your town that’s perfect to end the year. You can also check local theaters and performing arts centers for lists of upcoming performances.
You don’t have to leave the house to have a great New Year’s Eve celebration. You can end the year as your best self by doing your favorite things at home. Consider sitting back with a good book, watching your favorite movie or TV series, or playing some board games with your loved ones. If you have kids, you can make a whole evening of it by setting up a fort in your living room, gathering some tasty snacks, and doing a little bit of everything.
It’s good to say goodbye to the current year before saying hello to the next, so jot down what you’re grateful for from 2022. Think about all the good things you’ve experienced, including any personal growth, and say “So long!” to anything bad that happened. Additionally, you can write down what you’re hoping for in the new year; however, for a fresh perspective, consider your list to be goals rather than resolutions. 2023 is a blank state, so you can make it anything that you want!
A spa day is a great way to end the year. For a home version, break out your favorite products, play some calming music, and treat yourself to a relaxing evening in. If you’re wanting a little more of a treat, plan a visit to a local spa, either with or without friends, for a full-service day of R & R. Get a facial and a massage, and get ready to greet 2023 as your most relaxed and rejuvenated self.
Good food is good for the soul, so if food is your love language, consider going to a highly rated restaurant in your area. You can go solo, make it a date night or friend activity, or take the whole family. Whatever you opt for, it’s a nice treat for yourself and your loved ones. Similarly, if you’re a foodie who loves to cook, you can show off your culinary skills by making a special meal at home. Search for a recipe online that you wouldn’t normally cook, and prepare it for New Year’s Eve dinner.
Everybody loves a themed party, and New Year’s Eve is your chance to plan a fun event and wear on-theme costumes. There are plenty of great options to choose from, including murder mysteries, decades, and movie or literary characters. If you love a theme but don’t want to get dressed up, you could host a charcuterie party where everyone builds and brings their own charcuterie board to share with the group. It’s a theme that you can admire and then devour! Whatever type of party you choose, be sure to set up a photo wall or booth for everyone to document the special occasion.
People often take the outdoors for granted, which makes New Year’s Eve a great time to get out and see it. Weather permitting, consider taking a camping trip to spend some time out in nature appreciating the beautiful moments from the last year and the moments to come in the new year. If the weather isn’t great for camping, you can relax in your backyard or even stay up to watch the sunrise and witness the first shining moments of 2023.
However you choose to ring in the New Year, make it a day to remember by having a celebration that’s perfect for you.