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The Butterworks Farm Terroir

Butterworks.jpg

In France, Jack and Anne Lazor of Butterworks Farm would be cult figures, the object of veneration by people enamored of extraordinary food, and the subject of books by Americans fascinated by traditional agriculture. In Westfield, in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, they are just farmers, albeit ones well ahead of their time.

The Lazors came to my attention when a friend brought over some Stonyfield Farm organic yogurt and I could not understand why it tasted so awful compared to our usual yogurt. It turns out that Stonyfield yogurt, made by a subsidiary of the multinational Danone, contains inulin, a sweetener and pectin, a powdered thickener extracted from citrus fruits. These two additives change the texture and mask, at least for me, the real flavor of yogurt. Yogurt from Butterworks Farm, our regular brand, contains only organic whole Jersey milk, and acidophilus and other live yogurt cultures.

Butterworks Cow.jpgBut that is only half the story. In France it is an article of faith that true produits de terroir are products that express a sense of place: the soil, the climate, the air, the spirit of the land and the people who live there. Wine critics often deride poor wine as having no terroir, i.e. no identity. “It does not come from somewhere,” they will say, and once you taste examples of the two side by side, you will remember forever what this means.

Butterworks makes a range of products, but my favorite is their Whole Jersey Milk Yogurt. It is simultaeously rich and tart — the same pleasing combination of qualities found in the best sweet wines (and Coca-Cola, too, as a winemaker in Alsace once pointed out to me). The milk used in it is unhomogenized, so the thick cream rises to the top of the container and has to be stirred back into the whole.

All the feed that Butterworks’ Jersey cows eat is raised on the farm; in fact, the entire operation is a closed system, right down to the not inconsequential detail that all of the Lazors’ cows were born there, too. But beyond that, the Lazors seems to add a special element of attention to detail and caring to what they do. Their website lays out their healthy farm practices, but don’t trust the web for that. You can taste the result in their yogurt. It tastes like it comes from somewhere — because it really does.

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