Described as “a place of perfection”, Vermont's Shelburne Farms is a must see estate which still maintains its agricultural heritage. Once the home of Lila Vanderbilt (of those Vanderbilts) and her husband Dr. William Seward Webb, this sprawling waterfront estate has taken on a new life as a lovely inn and educational working farm where the public is welcome May through mid-October.
Shelburne Farms' Lake Champlain picturesque setting is a thing of beauty. The 1,400-acre estate holds a 24-room mansion, built in 1886 by the Webbs, and is said to be the inspiration behind the commissioning of the historic Biltmore estate in North Carolina. Today, the estate is a nonprofit learning campus which promotes sustainability, while the original Webb home is now a working inn.
Lodging or Learning
You can stay at the inn without signing up for anything other than a relaxing weekend. But the farm's mission is “to cultivate a conservation ethic for a sustainable future” through programs for adults, families and educators. It encourages hands-on activities, such as feeding baby goats, getting your hands dirty in the gardens, and even learning to milk cows. The participation in such activities helps children inadvertently learn how to make educated decisions about their food, and to respect the ecosystems around them. Brown Swiss Cows Freely Roaming — Photo courtesy of Shelburne Farms
If you are a Shelburne resident, or are under the age of 3, you can enjoy the farms amenities at no charge. For those visiting this unique destination, the modest $8.00 adult admission ($6.00 for seniors and $5.00 for children) grants you access to the extensive scenic walking trails, the numerous activities that take place in the children’s farmyard, and a front row seat to watch their famous farmhouse cheddar be made. For more detailed information you can visit their website at http://www.shelburnefarms.org/
Whether you’re immersed in a class or simply strolling the beautiful grounds, you’re guaranteed to see the highly-prized Brown Swiss cows freely roaming about. Their grass-fed milk is the key ingredient to Shelburne Farms' award-winning cheddar cheeses, which they've been crafting since 1980. With a herd of 125 happy cows, each one can produce up to 50 pounds of milk a day, ultimately resulting in approximately 140,000 pounds of cheese a year.
The artisanal farmhouse cheddar that Shelburne is famous for is a raw milk cheese void of any preservatives, artificial colors, or flavorings. Raw milk cheeses are sought after for the flavor and aromas imparted from the terroir, and also because of the higher nutritional value. Aged from 6 months to 3 years, these wax-dipped blocks are quite the treat and make for a great gift. This superior cheese is sold throughout Vermont, and at specialty cheese shops around the U.S. It is also available through their online store (http://store.shelburnefarms.org/category/cheddar)
With its gracious accommodations, a restaurant offering the best local bounty, and beautiful formal gardens, The Inn at Shelburne Farms offers a unique and memorable getaway. A portion of the inn's proceeds go back to supporting the farm and the educational programs offered there.