Out and About With Paul and Barney

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Posted: January 15, 2014

During this rainy, gray week in January, it’s nice to think back to the uncharacteristically warm, sunny October days we had not so long ago.  Here’s a short throwback post by Annie Rowell about one of our farm visits last fall.



Little broccoli beads have started creeping into our dreams and the faint humming of Dana Carvey’s infamous “Chopping Broccoli” anthem can be heard wafting through the warehouse – it’s broccoli season.  Vermont fall weather is always a tricky variable for farmers growing this green, nutrient-dense vegetable as the dance with frosty nights begins.  This fall, however, has been unseasonably warm and sunny and it feels like we are just getting started in the world of frozen broccoli here at the Vermont Food Venture Center.

Last week, Barney Hodges, owner of Sunrise Orchards, and I met up at Paul Mazza’s farm in Essex, VT to check out the Mazza broccoli crop grown for Sunrise Orchards’ frozen fruit and vegetable line.  We have frozen broccoli for Sunrise Orchards for the past two years, and anticipate freezing Mazza broccoli this year.   It is such a treat to see a crop exposed to the natural world before it arrives at our door, neatly packed, trimmed, and ready for kitchen work.

Paul Mazza’s farm has over 200 acres of fruits and vegetables in production, with fields spread throughout the Burlington hinterland.  Barney and I hopped in Paul’s truck to take a ride around his fields on this oddly balmy October morning.

This particular broccoli head was looking almost ready for harvest. For best processing efficiency here at the VFVC, we look for a 6-8” broccoli head.

Paul took us on a wild ride on the back roads to all his fields that seemed to be tucked away all throughout the river valley leading into Essex.


We inevitably took a couple detours.  Sometimes I forget all the places a 4-wheel drive truck can go that my 1-inch-ground-clearance little Jetta cannot – in Paul’s truck, the terrible scraping sound of a car bottoming out on bumpy farm roads never happened.  “You just gotta try these peppers this year,” he said, as he plucked off a bright red long pepper and whittled off slices for Barney and me with his pocket knife.  At the next field, in the same manner, he shucked an ear of corn, snapped it in half and handed us the two pieces.  “Now this, this, is really something. Go on, take a bite.”

…so I did.

And then I had a few more.


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