Big Picture Farm
by Lauren Mosher
There is a stigma surrounding caramels. There is the predictable routine of waiting for one to dissolve, which is intercepted by impatience, resulting in sticky shards embedded in every tooth. This is repeated, hoping the candy will dissolve to a rich luscious caramel syrup. Until recently, no caramel came close—that is, until I consumed a smooth golden nugget from Big Picture Farm.
The story of Big Picture Farm in Townshend, Vermont, is an enchanting novel-worthy tale about a couple who abandoned convention for an old-world profession, in pursuit of a sugary innovation. Big Picture Farm, according to their website, is a Vermont goat dairy and farmstead confectionery.
Their story is sweet and tells a tale of their journey with farming, which, like their caramels, has a happy ending.
Louisa Conrad and Lucas Farrell began their foray into farm life while apprenticing at Blue Ledge Farm, which yields 50,000 pounds of goat cheese per year. It was here that they became enamored with goats. So how are goats any different from other farm animals? Louisa explained that goats have more personality, as well as an ability to recognize people; basically, goats are the family dogs of livestock. Deciding that they were “too late to the cheese world,” Louisa and Lucas sought out another product that would allow them to make money from goats. In late 2010 Louisa began her culinary experimentation with goat’s milk, focusing on caramels after a suggestion from her brother. She aimed to create a confection reminiscent of the English toffee she had as a child.
That same year, the duo relocated to Peaked Mountain Farm, where they would assist in cheese making and farm maintenance. In return, they were allowed to bring a few of their goats onto the farm. Lucas dubbed their portion Big Picture Farm, after a painting by Louisa’s father. That fall the caramels were first sold at the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market, and by spring 2011, Big Picture Farm began to take on wholesale clients. All the while, the couple simultaneously worked at Peaked Mountain Farm, which they purchased entirely in April 2012.
Around this same time, I bought my first box of Big Picture Farm caramels (one of four that I would consume singlehandedly). The box, a simple brown one with a folksy Americana vibe, sat in my snack drawer for weeks, because it is my belief that candy is for kids. (When I have sweets, I prefer an over-the-top dessert laden with as many calories as I burn during spin class.) But one evening my sugar craving reared its ugly head, and I felt it was time. I reached into the brown box, and pulled out a single caramel. Inside the wax wrapping I uncovered a gooey round morsel that was nothing like the stereotypical drug-store caramel I had anticipated.
I gingerly bit into the caramel, fearful a sugary residue would be shellacked to my front teeth. To my delight, the nugget was as smooth and milky in taste as in appearance. The initial flavor was that of Madagascar bourbon vanilla. This contributes nicely to the creamy subtle sweetness that lingers, and it is well balanced by a hint of sea salt. Then my palate detected a tang from the goat milk that gave a notable freshness. All the flavors are seamlessly layered, then blended together for a perfect melt-in-your-mouth treat. Before I got a chance to share, the box was devoured.
Naturally after establishing that taste baseline, I bought the goat milk chai caramels. Again, the treat was as rich and milky as my original purchase, but with a kick. The sweetness from cinnamon, ginger, and clove meld with cardamom, giving the treat a warm characteristic. This unique confection was recognized in San Francisco’s Good Food Award (January 2013). By this spring, the company is planning on adding two more flavors to their line up. I can’t imagine what they’ll dream up next.