Started by Paul Lisai in 2012, Sweet Rowen Farmstead is a family owned and operated dairy farm located in West Glover, VT. The Sweet Rowen mission is to “maintain a working landscape that provides families with fresh food, supports the local economy, and upholds the ecological integrity of the environment”. The farm’s small herd of Vermont Heritage Lineback cows are grass-fed and get fresh pasture after each milking. In addition to producing whole milk, the creamery makes a variety of cheeses, as well as yogurt. In November 2022, Sweet Rowen became a Farm Partner with Green Mountain Farm Direct.
After studying Sustainable Agriculture at Sterling College and working at a local diary farm in Craftsbury, Paul traveled to New Zealand to spend some time experiencing dairy farming in another part of the world. When it was time to come home, Paul was eager to mimic the techniques he had learned from his travels and his time in school – to use a pasture-based system incorporating the science of intentional rotational grazing. “The way this works”, Paul explains, “is six months out of the year, the cows get a new piece of grass every twelve hours and then don’t touch the same piece of grass for fifty days. This rhythm happens from mid May to mid November.”
When Paul started the business in 2012, he was milking eight cows in a rented farm space and using a rented creamery to produce raw milk to sell at farmers markets. Fast forward to today, the farm has seven full-time employees, milking fifty cows. “And we’re feeding a bunch of people,” says Paul with pride, “The reason for growing our business was that it wasn’t sustainable to be milking eight cows and doing everything myself. We were really lucky that people liked our stuff, and we didn’t have to try too hard to keep selling it. I hope we have reached a nice spot in scale so we can settle into this size farm and focus on being more sustainable long-term, offering better pay for employees, and those kinds of investments.”
Paul’s favorite part of his work has always been the art and science of grazing. “Setting the fence every day during grazing season – going out and deciding what the cows are going to eat and seeing the next day what they ate. You do this first thing in the morning. The art is based on how much they ate, how the cows are doing, what the weather is going to be, what the milk tastes like…that’s my favorite part because that’s what changes all the time. There are ways to make it even more scientific – apps, technology, but I think you can do a better job as a person paying attention to these details.”
“Currently, we sell milk, many varieties of cheese, and our newest product is the past couple of years is yogurt. My personal favorite cheese is our alpine cheese called ‘Freedom Heights’. Freedom Heights geographically represents the farm where we are located. Farmers from the past would call this area Freedom Heights because several farms used to be here.”
Paul says that partnering with Green Mountain Farm Direct is helping Sweet Rowen gain access to institutional markets. “The goal of our farm has always been to produce food for people that live here, so if we can get our stuff in schools and hospitals, that meets a lot of our goals as well. We find it’s a bit harder to reach those markets because the buyers in charge of those markets don’t often want to deal with farmers, that’s why we’re working with you guys.”
You can view all of Sweet Rowen’s delicious milk, cheeses, and yogurt at: sweetrowen.com/shopnow
A list all the locations where you can purchase Sweet Rowen products is available on their website: sweetrowen.com/shoplocal