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2023 ‘Fantastic Farmer’ Award Recognizes Hartland Dairy and Cheese Operation

October 24, 2023
Kerry Gawalt and Family

Image L to R: Maeve Leslie-Gawalt2023 Fantastic Farmer Kerry GawaltStephen Leslie, Maisy the Jack Russell   

A. Pizzagalli Family Farm Fund continues support for Vermont Agriculture and Heritage

October 24, 2023 | Montpelier, VT – Nestled near a hillside in Hartland, Vermont, sits land that has seen agricultural uses since the 1770’s. Now home to Cedar Mountain Farm and Cobb Hill Cheese, this land continues to support Vermont’s agricultural traditions with an eye toward the future under the watchful leadership and experienced hands of Kerry Gawalt.  Emphasizing sustainability, stewardship, education, diversity, value, and heritage since 1999, Gawalt exemplifies all the qualities needed to receive the third annual ‘Fantastic Farmer’ title and a significant award of $5000 from the A. Pizzagalli Family Farm Fund. 

While working to restore and maintain a healthy farm system on the centuries old agricultural land in Windsor County, Cedar Mountain Farm and Gawalt manage draft horses, maintain a dairy cow herd of 60 Jerseys, manage 72 acres with 26 varieties of vegetables and herbs on a one-acre plot. Additionally, the property hosts a 1000-tap maple sugaring operation, and supplies milk for Cobb Hill Cheese, an award-winning artisan cheese brand owned and operated by Gawalt and the farm. 

“I really love working with cows, caring for the land, and sharing what I know about farming. I have been very lucky to have had some amazing mentors during my life. Farming and nature have been a part of my world since birth,” Gawalt said.  “Many people have influenced me and shared their knowledge of animals, farming and cooking over the years. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work in agriculture and hope to continue to share my love of farming with others.  Vermont has a wealth of agricultural history which I am always learning more about every day.”

The ‘Fantastic Farmer’ title is one of three annual award programs supported by the A.Pizzagalli Family Farm Fund.  Including the Vermont Barn Painting Project and the High-Quality Milk Awards, the mission of the Fund is to support farmer efforts to grow their business, cultivate, and deliver their products to the consumer, in a way that respects the heritage, culture, and stewardship that our farmers and farming community strive for every day. 

In March, The Vermont Dairy Industry Association (VDIA), announced the 2022 Vermont High-Quality Milk Awards.  The awards recognize the dairy farmers who produced Vermont's best quality milk in 2022. These farmers were recognized at the annual Vermont Dairy Producers Conference, held for the first time in-person since the beginning of the pandemic.

These awards were presented to:

  • 1st      $2,500 – Howmars Farm – The Gates Family
  • 2nd      $1,500 – Essex Farm LLC – The Essex Family
  • 3rd      $1,000 – Dubois Farm Inc. – The Dubois Family

Also this summer, four barns around the state received a fresh coat of paint through the Vermont Barn Painting Project, with two more approved.  These barns were painted by their owners, who then received an $8,000 micro-grant from the A. Pizzagalli Family Farm Fund.  This program reimburses barn owners for improving and preserving their barns and farm property for future generations and improve their roadside appeal across Vermont, for their local communities, visitors, and tourists. 

“The goal of the A. Pizzagalli Family Fund is to support and reward Vermont’s hard working agricultural entrepreneurs, maintain the integrity of barns across the state, and preserve Vermont’s vistas for visitors and Vermonters alike,” said Lisa Pizzagalli.  “The Pizzagalli family thanks our farmers for their hard work and looks forward to these programs benefitting more agricultural families in the coming years.”

”We are grateful for all these programs that are helping our farmers. These investments by the Pizzagalli Family are making a difference across Vermont. These dollars are supporting our hard-working farmers and improving our rural economy. We are fortunate to have these grants,” said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. 

The Vermont Barn Painting Project, with support from the A. Pizzagalli Family Farm Fund and partners, will continue the program next year and beyond.  Any Vermont barn owner who may have interest in the program should visit the Vermont Barn Painting Project to learn more.