Ploughgate Creamery - the Revival of a Dream

Friday, November 6, 2015




Marisa Mauro has had her hands in the dairy industry since her first job on a sheep farm at age 15. Now, at age 30, she is the proud owner of Bragg Farm in the beautiful Northeast Kingdom of Vermont where she has been establishing her business, Ploughgate Creamery for the past three years. While this seems like a grand accomplishment for a young  entrepreneur, even more impressive is the story that led to her acquisition of this incredibly scenic piece of real estate in the middle of Vermont's farming country.  It is the story of a gutsy and brave woman who did not let a tragic loss keep her from her goal, for Ploughgate Creamery is really the revival of a dream.



Marisa, inside the barn she is renovating.



Marisa's dream for making butter and cheese became a reality in 2008 when she started Ploughgate Creamery for the first time in the raw and wild countryside of Albany, Vermont.  She ran a successful business for three years until 2011 when a fire destroyed the creamery. Under-insured and left with a chunk of debt, she took a job managing a local wine bar to get back on her feet financially, because, as she ruefully notes, "You can't get out of debt milking cows."  Meanwhile, her dream of a creamery smoldered in the ashes of disappointment. But, having spent years of her life working on farms in Vermont, a goat dairy in California and a cattle ranch in Montana, owning a farm was in her blood and one day she heard of the perfect opportunity.




Morning mist hugs the valley as another day begins on the farm.



In nearby Waitsfield, the Vermont Land Trust, an organization dedicated to conserving Vermont's farm land for future generations and making it affordable for young farmers, was offering a 50-acre farm to applicants willing to use the land for farming. With thirty days to write a business plan, Marisa submitted her application, along with a plan to resurrect her beloved creamery.  Within days came the happy news that her proposal to use this picturesque parcel of land for Ploughgate Creamery was chosen and she was able to purchase Bragg Farm, a dairy that had been dormant since 1973, for a fraction of it's former value.

With the construction addition of a 36' x 40' creamery, the farm is now home to Ploughgate Creamery which supplies fresh, cultured butter to specialty stores and farmer's markets throughout the Northeast made with cream she purchases from farms across Vermont.  In looking towards the future and her plans for the farm, her goal is to acquire a herd of twenty-five dairy cows to graze the land and to supply some of her cream, but in the meantime, she rents the acreage to a local farmer while she is renovating the barn, a process she calls "brutal and slow."

Marisa has become stronger through the bitter disappointment and loss she endured and says "it all worked out better for me in the long run." Her word of advice for others wanting to follow a dream?  "It will all work out if you keep working hard enough." And for this brave young farmer, it truly has.




Fresh, local cream is cultured for 24 - 48 hours, after which it's churned into butter.  Here, it is kneaded by hand until it reaches a desired consistency.



Marisa begins the wrapping process of these balls of butter which have been weighed and shaped to uniform size.




Much of the work is done by hand at Ploughgate, from kneading the butter to forming the butter balls, to wrapping the finished product and securing it with a label.




And the choices today are salted, unsalted or sage honey.




Ploughgate butter is available at local farmer's markets in Waitsfield, Burlington and Stowe (for Vermont dwellers).




The barn during its renovation stage.  When completed, Marisa will be able to bring a herd of dairy cows onto the land.




New windows in the old barn provide a stunning view of the Mad River valley.




A peek at Marisa's bookshelf shows this gal is serious about making butter.




Hard-working hands have helped this product along every step of the way, from the beginning stage of cream to its final golden perfection,  beautifully wrapped and labeled.




What's better than freshly slathered butter bread?




With a view like this, who would ever want to leave?





Earlier this year, Bragg Farm was the setting for a long table dinner party by Outstanding in the Field, an organization that hosts farm-to-table dinners across the country.




Bragg Farm has been conserved for future generations of farmers by the Vermont Land Trust.




New England in the Fall is a stunning showcase of vibrant color.


For more information on Ploughgate Creamery, please visit their website here.

Photos courtesy of Emily Rak and Marisa Mauro.  Used with permission. 2015.

1 comment:

  1. Naomi, what an incredible story! I have so much admiration for Marisa, what an inspiring woman and I really wish her all the best for the future, she deserves every success. I hope this finds you well, I'm sorry I haven't popped in to say hello for a while, study got the better of me and I've neither been reading or writing of late, but I'm happy to be rectifying that this week and I love returning to your blog to find this story and - as usual - a few delicious recipes to make me drool. Much love from London, Esther xx

    ReplyDelete