Perspectives - Fall 2018 - 23

D

epending on what you do for a living, that saying, "Do what
you love, love what you do" either rings sweetly true or
sounds aggravatingly out-of-reach. Well, if you fall into the latter
category, this story is for you. Take heart in Sam and Peter Dixon-they're both proof that with hard work (and even failure) you
can live the dream too.
According to his older brother, when Sam Dixon was a little boy,
the thing he liked to do best was milk the family cow. "I'll never
forget it," recalls Peter Dixon. "You could always rely on Sam to
be there at milking time."
On the family's farm in Dummerston, Vermont, Sam's domain
was the barn. But Peter had a propensity for science projects in
the kitchen. He recalls experimenting with the milk Sam would
carry in, transforming it into various staples alongside his mother.
"I would always help her in the kitchen," Peter remembers. "We
would make little cheddar cheeses or curds or butter."
Those were the days. Sam remembers their "old farm in the country" as an exciting place to grow up, bursting with "everything
under the sun...just sort of a menagerie." Their father, a doctor who
moved the family to Vermont in 1968 to start his practice, enjoyed
homesteading-and collecting farm animals-on the side. So, not
only did the Dixon boys grow up with a hand-milking cow; they
also had a pig, sheep, beef, and a flock of chickens, plus a large
organic garden to play in.

MEET THE DIXON BROTHERS NOW:
FIRST, THE DAIRY FARMER

It was a particularly bright and brisk October morning when Sam
Dixon sat down with Perspectives magazine. Bundled from the
cold (snow flurries fell in town a few days later), he took a chair
in his warmed office, parallel to the milking parlor at Shelburne
Farms.
If you've never visited this Shelburne, Vermont institution, you
must plan a trip. (You can book a stay for a night at the on-site
Shelburne Inn, where your meals will feature ingredients straight
from the farm and the lawns frame unobstructed views of Lake
Champlain's waterfront.) A 1,400-acre working farm, forest, National Historic Landmark, and nonprofit organization, Shelburne
Farms is quite a place.

Oh, and if you've never tasted their Shelburne Farms Cheddar,
well, you're in for a treat. The milk for this delicious cheese comes
from the 110 Brown Swiss cows who get milked across from
Sam's office-an office he's not usually sitting in. "I'm the farm
manager at Shelburne Farms," he says, speaking quickly since he
only has so much time before he'll need to get on with morning
chores. "I started here in 1996. I oversee the agricultural operations, primarily livestock." Besides the dairy, the farm also grows
lamb, beef, and vegetables and runs a woodlands operation selling
maple syrup and lumber.
Because Shelburne Farms is a great example of a "food system,"
as Sam explains it, people from all over the country-and world-
come to visit. "Almost everything we produce, we're adding value
to," he says. "We make over 80 percent of our milk into cheese,
320 days a year. All the lamb and beef we produce goes through
the restaurant in the Inn." And the same goes for the vegetables
and maple syrup from the farm. "We don't face the same pressures
that other commercial farms do, but we try to keep it as relevant as
we can," he adds.
Thanks to all the outside interest in Shelburne Farm's operations,
Sam says a highlight of his career has been meeting farmers from
all over the world-Japan, Colombia, Germany. He has also met
big name farmers like Joel Salatin and even celebrities like Martha Stewart and Sigourney Weaver. But largely, besides making
time for those occasional interesting visitors, Sam doesn't leave
the farm much.
"On a daily basis, I'm doing the work that any farmer in the state
of Vermont is doing," he says. "Milking cows, cleaning the barn,
mixing feed."

NEXT, THE CHEESEMAKER

Peter Dixon, who joined Perspectives for a phone interview later
that same night, echoed this sentiment about his brother and noted
the tie to his boyhood interests. "He really enjoys the cows and the
farming," Peter says. "For so long he just wouldn't leave! We're
always like, 'well, that's Sam! He's just not gonna come this weekend.'" Peter laughs.
It had been a long day in Westminster West when Peter hopped
on the call. He'd started work nearly 12 hours earlier and now had

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Perspectives - Fall 2018

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Perspectives - Fall 2018

Contents
Perspectives - Fall 2018 - Cover1
Perspectives - Fall 2018 - Cover2
Perspectives - Fall 2018 - Contents
Perspectives - Fall 2018 - 4
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