Meet the awe-inspiring duo behind Ardelia Farm & Co.!
This post comes from our blog intern, Emily.
Hi! Can you introduce yourselves and let us know a little bit about what Ardelia Farm & Co. is?
Ardelia Farm & Co. is a diversified farm in Vermont’s rural Northeast Kingdom. Our primary focus is our flower farm and our farm-based bakery.
We raise more than 100 varieties of annuals, perennials and woody plants that we sell at farmers markets and direct to florists. We also offer full-service wedding floral design using only our own flowers, occasionally supplemented with other sustainably grown flowers from Vermont and throughout New England.
We bake using our own eggs, and many ingredients raised on our farm. Our own herbs, fruit, vegetables and even bacon appear in our baked goods throughout the season. We source all of our dairy and any ingredients we don’t raise ourselves from fellow Vermont farmers. Anything imported, such as sugar, chocolate and coconut is organic and fairly traded. We believe in quality ingredients and supporting other sustainable farmers. We sell at farmers markets, on our online store, and produce custom wedding and special occasion cakes.
Additionally, we maintain a small herd of Gloucestershire Old Spots Pigs, producing breeding stock for other farmers, and pastured pork for our friends and family. We also have a small herd of Guernsey goats, which we milk for our household dairy needs. We breed rare heritage breed chickens and hatch and sell baby chicks in the springtime.
Bailey Hale is the head of our floral operations, and Thomas McCurdy is our baker/pastry chef. We both tend the livestock and see to the day to day running of our farm.
How did Ardelia Farm & Co. come to be?
In 2011, we were living in Philadelphia. Bailey had a successful floral and event design company, and sang with the Philadelphia Opera Company (now called Opera Philadelphia), and Thomas was a professional pastry chef. We had a garden and chicken coop and beehives right in the city. In June of 2011 the city came for our illegal chickens and we decided we needed to pursue our farming interest outside of the city. By October of that year we had quit our jobs, sold our house and moved to a rental farm in central New York State. After 2 ½ years on rented land we decided we wanted to continue farming, and that it was time to buy our own place.
We searched all over the northeast and settled on a small farm in northeastern Vermont that has everything we need.
Can you tell us about the name “Ardelia Farm & Co.”
As we were beginning our farm search, Bailey’s dear grandmother, Ardelia, passed away at the age of 98, and generously remembered her grandchildren in her passing. Since she was a farmer herself, and was known for her flower gardens and kitchen hospitality, we thought it only fitting that we name our farm in her honor.
Ardelia Farm & Co. offers a few different services. Did you start with one project and then lead on to others or did you offer everything from the beginning?
We initially focused on our livestock operations, as we had no experience with most farm animals, and we wanted to be part of improving the living conditions of farm animals. Once we had settled into our own property, we added flowers and baking back into our lives. Since we had professional careers in these fields, it was a natural addition to our farm operation. We are discovering that we can’t do everything, so we are focusing on the floral and bakery elements of our business. But we will always keep livestock on a homestead level. Especially pigs. We really love pigs.
What is important about your location to your business?
We are in Vermont’s rural and picturesque Northeast Kingdom. Despite it being cold and somewhat isolated, it is hard to find a region with a more vibrant agricultural scene. There are lots of young or new farmers in our area who are trying new approaches to farming. There are also lots of farms and farmers who have been here for many generations. We all help each other out. The sense of community is unlike what we have felt anywhere else.
Vermont farmers have a tradition of producing quality food and ingredients, and we are happy to produce much of our baking using primarily ingredients from people we know right here in Vermont.
What is it like, growing flowers year round?
Since we are so far north and at a high elevation we have a short and cool growing season. We have a greenhouse to help extend our season. We generally produce flowers for sale from late April through October. Our unique climate allows us to focus on flowers that love cooler conditions. We specialize in Peonies, Ranunculus, Anemones and Sweet Peas. We offer these flowers most of the summer, when few others can grow them.
A lot of love goes into your business. What is it about your process that makes your product so special? What do you really value?
Floral design and pastry are both visually focused fields. A clean and beautiful presentation is always one of our primary concerns. Knowing where every flower or every ingredient was produced is a real treat and source of inspiration. Few florists or bakers get to operate in a manner that so directly connects the to the earth. We feel very fortunate.
You pride yourselves in using organic, quality ingredients in your baked goods that come from your farm or local suppliers, which is amazing! Have there been challenges because of this?
It was our access to high quality ingredients that led us to decide to start our farm-based bakery to begin with. In addition to our own eggs, bacon and produce, we use flour, buttermilk, butter, sour cream, cornmeal, cranberries and milk made by local producers. At this time, we are not 100% organic, but look forward to changing this in the near future. The main challenge with the bakery has been finding the balance between using the highest quality ingredients and maintaining an accessible price point for our customers.
What does a day in the life of Ardelia Farm & Co. look like?
Every day is different. Every day begins and ends with chores. Keeping everything alive requires constant attention! In the springtime days are filled with sowing seeds and planting crops for summer harvest. Baby goats are born in April. In May our 3 farmer’s markets start and go strong through October. All week we are baking, weeding, harvesting and preparing for each market. During the holiday season our online bakery store keeps us busy, shipping gifts of cookies and brownies all over the US. In the winter we just try to keep from freezing! Snow removal can be a full time job in some seasons. We often drop below -35 degrees. We enjoy the quiet restfulness of winter as we gear up for the busy spring season. We do try to take a short vacation in the winter as well.
Where do you begin when working with your clients? What’s your process like?
Every client is different, and we meet them where they are. Some people have firm ideas of what they want their wedding cake and flowers to look like. Some come with binders of photos or never ending Pinterest boards. We are happy to help each client realize their dream look.
Other clients come to the table with more flexibility to their vision. We love starting with a small detail such as a color, or a flower, or a feeling, or a pattern and expanding it to a full and cohesive event. With enough advanced planning we can even grow certain flowers for certain clients. Starting seedlings in late winter, knowing whose August wedding they will be used for is a real treat. We do love what we do, and we love sharing it through our work.
We recently saw your work in Lizzy and Mike’s wedding. Stunning! Were there any key elements used throughout to make it look cohesive?
We are fortunate to have such amazing friends as Mike and Lizzy. They have helped us immeasurably with the design of our website and printed materials, and even the invitations for our own wedding. I have worked with Mike on photographic projects for years.
They gave us a great deal of creative space in designing their flowers and desserts. Knowing their own personal style informed each decision. We got sneak peeks at Lizzy’s dress, and studied photos of the venue well in advance. Their wedding was one of those rare occasions when we could even select certain seeds to grow into flowers for their big day. Even though they are beloved friends, they were also the ideal clients. They gave us a few key details to go on and trusted us to take it from there.
What do you love most about your job?
Working for yourself has its ups and downs. When something goes wrong, we only have ourselves to blame. On the other side, when things go right, we have an intense feeling of accomplishment. Some of our decisions are literally life or death matters. We have learned a deep appreciation for agriculture and everyone who devotes their lives to growing food and flowers. We are very lucky and can’t imagine another life.
Thank you so much Thomas and Bailey!
Lizzy and Mike’s Wedding on BLDG 25