by Libby Collier
A Pennsylvania native, I came to the Green Mountain State for school in 2013. I knew little about Vermont except for its shape, and I only knew that because of my exposure to it on the side of the maple syrup bottle my mother would serve with her silver dollar pancakes.
But after four years in college there, Vermont has become my home, familiar and comfortable. The landscape and the people alike cultivate a sense of collective welcome and warmth. Even in winter’s sub-zero temperatures, when the trees are bare and the winds off Lake Champlain cut through layers upon layers of clothing, the cerulean sky reminds you of Vermont’s steamy summer days, and you can find refuge in a cozy coffee shop with a wood-burning fire with good friends.
Every town in Vermont has something to offer. Though I’m most familiar with Burlington — a vibrant college town just under an hour from the Canadian border — I’ve explored different parts of the state over the years. About two and a half hours south of Burlington is the rural town of Putney.
Despite its small size, Putney is known throughout the state for its apples and syrup, for its well-renowned schools, and as the governor’s hometown. As you drive through into Putney, lush fields and farmland flank dirt roads. In autumn, its trees become a vibrant yellow and orange canopy, and the roads transform into tunnels of flickering color.
Putney’s homes have been passed down from generation to generation, along with its small-town traditions: people still go physically carol from door to door, and every summer, there are concerts on the green. The community is so tight-knit in Putney that even if you’re only there for a visit, you’ll pass the same familiar faces going about town. You can only imagine how familiar those faces must be to Putney families, who’ve lived there for decades.
This summer, I visited my partner and his family in Putney, and we took a trip to the neighboring town of Brattleboro to their farmers market. The Brattleboro Area Farmers Market takes place every Saturday from May through October, and on this particular July Saturday, cars filled the parking area despite cloudy weather.
Instead of typical market tents, the vendors here set up at wooden structures with roofs of wood and tin. Each table was decorated with the shades of summer: candy-red strawberries, chartreuse lettuce with flecks of emerald and viridian; carrots and radishes vibrant as though they’d been dipped into buckets of paint.
I made my way down the tables, sampling whatever was available — and then I came to a particularly breathtaking table. The Tavernier Chocolate stand sold sculptures of artfully crafted chocolate, textured and speckled with color. Chocolate bars were carefully ornamented with dried berries, flowers, seeds, salts, and nuts — their Brattlebar, for example, boasted dried goji berries and raw pumpkin, hemp, and chia seeds embedded in 70% Venezuelan dark chocolate.
But it was their Chocolate Charcuterie that really caught my attention. Various chocolate pâtés were designed to adorn a cheeseboard, or to be enjoyed on their own “charcuterie” dessert board. Their chocolate salami was made up of rosemary shortbread pieces, marsala-marinated dried black mission figs, and roasted hazelnuts, dusted with organic powdered sugar. All of their sliceable chocolates were wrapped in butcher paper and delicately tied with twine.
But despite the wonderfully overwhelming chocolate table, and although there were many more delectable edibles there that morning, it was the energy of the market that made it so remarkable. Neighbors, family, and friends stood in pleasant conversation, or sat to enjoy the renowned Thai chicken sticks from Anon’s Thai Cuisine. (The family-owned business has been in attendance at the market since 1984.) Children played in the middle of market grounds as their families looked on, relaxed and happy.
I left the market feeling refreshed by my trip back to Vermont, and particularly to the market. The Brattleboro market embodies Vermont in its entirety: above all else, Vermonters value their connections to their community and to the land. Every stand had products made with care and quality in mind, and the people who made them were eager to connect and tell you about them. Vermonters across the state share that spirit. It’s what allows a small Saturday market to leave a warm and lasting impression.