|Producer of the Month: Livewater Dairy|
By Jon Megas-Russell
The beauty of southern Vermont in the spring is something to marvel at. What with the emergence of the lush green pastures, the return of local farm food, and the crisp clean air, we are quite lucky. It gets even sweeter when you catch a glimpse into the world of some of our most treasured assets, our farmers. This month I was lucky enough to spend a morning with Taylor Acquaviva from Livewater Farm & Dairy. Acquaviva actually means “live water” in Italian and thus is how the farm got its name. It all began about 30 or 35 years ago when Taylor’s father started Livewater Farm.
Taylor’s parents Bill and Muffy operated the farm in Marlboro, VT, participating in local markets for a number of years while Bill workerd as a farrier. In 1997 they bought 58 acres in Westminster West, VT. Since that time they have had various relationships with local producers, retailers, and distributors, as well as with local farmers markets, all the while selling agricultural products from the farm.
Livewater Farm is home to a grass-fed dairy and beef herd, more than 200 free-range Rhode Island Red hens, broilers, pigs, a pair of Percheron draft horses, a hive of bees, a market garden, fruit trees and berry bushes, and two greenhouses obtained through Vermont Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Services. Taylor calls what they are doing “a lifestyle” and that he is “passionate about being a small farmer” and loves working closely with his parents, Bill and Muffy, to care for their animals and land.
About two years ago Taylor finished up school at UVM, traveled around the United States, and spent seven weeks in Brazil. After he returned he obtained a grant to set up two high tunnel greenhouses from the Vermont Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Services. In the spring of 2015 he obtained a business loan through Yankee Farm Credit to start Livewater Dairy, a cheese processing operation located on Livewater Farm. That same spring he received a runner-up award in the annual Strolling of the Heifers business model competition.
After getting the greenhouses up and running, he realized that with all of their acreage and grass-fed cows, cheese making might be something to try. So, he received lessons from Peter Dixon on cheesemaking and in May 2015 he produced the very first mozzarella and butter in his fully licensed and state inspected facility. The farm can produce close to 30 gallons of milk a day from their mix of cows, which includes a Jersey-Normandy cross, a Montbilliard cross, and a Guernsey cow. The milk is from 100% grass-fed cows, with no hormones, antibiotics, or preservatives added. His facility is immaculately clean and the cheese is made in small batches with much care. In addition to his regular mozzarella he produces a smoked mozzarella, burrata, scamorza and, just this past January, his first raw milk tomme. Taylor “never thought that he would be a cheesemaker” but he loves it and believes that “his contribution to the cheese world will be his raw milk tomme.” He loves this cheese the most because it is raw, ages for a minimum of 60 days, and he can control the flavors by growing the grass that feeds the cows that makes the cheese. The flavor is nutty, creamy, and has mild earthy undertones. He also produces butter in this facility, which you can also purchase at our Co-op. The butter has a luscious yellow color and a creamy delicious flavor. The cheeses are all delightful—in particular, the smoked mozzarella, regular mozzarella, and tomme are our favorites here at the Co-op. They even pair well with the farm’s eggs: the hens eat a mix of grass, some grain, and a small amount of milk, and happily their eggs are in abundance here at the Co-op, and so can make it into your daily food staples.
Taylor sells his cheese at many farmers markets around the region, including Brattleboro and Putney. He also sells to the Putney Food Co-op and Grafton Cheese, though the bulk of his cheese sales are done right here at the Brattleboro Food Co-op. He also mentioned the family farm stand, where one can purchase maple products, canned goods, beef, pork, chickens, vegetables, eggs, and their delicious and nutritious raw milk.
When we began to discuss Taylor’s growth plans for Livewater Dairy, he said that he recently added an intern position to obtain leads for new retail outlets, support social media including the farm’s blog, called “The Barnyard,” and whatever other business-related tasks he might need help with. Additionally, Taylor reiterated his love for the lifestyle and the work he does, and that there are not big concerns to grow the farm beyond supporting their family and serving the community. Nevertheless, over time Taylor is excited to turn his farm into a model that people can learn from and build on their own in other small communities. The future is bright for Taylor and for Livewater Dairy.
Come join us to taste the cheeses of Livewater Dairy on July 20th and 27th from 4 to 6pm.