In 2001, the Phelps family put Cricket Creek Farm up for sale, and the Sabot family, concerned about the development of the largest farm in Williamstown, explored options for protecting the land. By 2002 the purchase was complete and work was started on a plan for moving forward. Since much of the land was in Agricultural Protection, it had to be maintained as a working farm. After visiting Shelburne Farms in Northern Vermont, a decision was made to continue with dairy farming, add cheese making and an educational component.
Many models were considered, including leasing the farm to another farmer, having a multi-use facility, and bringing in an experienced manager. In May 2003, Brian Stone of Montpelier, Vermont was hired to manage the daily dairy operation. He oversaw the purchase of our herd of Jerseys and the early cheesemaking plans.
At the same time we began planning a modern milking parlor and cheese making facility. The existing parlor was designed in the 50’s and was set up for a large, grain-based operation. We planned on a significantly smaller milking herd (50-60 cows, as opposed to the 300 in the heyday of the former farm). We also decided to pursue a grass-based operation – staying away from the massive inputs required for corn-based farming. We believed that a grass-based dairy would result in high quality dairy products, healthier, happier animals, and a cleaner more sustainable environment.
Family friend and expert architect Patti Seidman designed our beautiful new facility – consisting of a state of the art New Zealand style swing parlor, post-and-beam event room, and cheese-making rooms. The new construction was integrated with existing farm structures and was done by local contractor John Briggs.
We began milking cows in the spring of 2004!
We continued to move toward our goal of producing fine artisanal cheese. This included visits to various regional cheese makers, a cheese fact-finding and tasting trip to northern Italy, and attendance at the American Cheese Society annual meetings. During the summer of 2005, Onofrio Morrone from Caggiano, in southern Italy, traveled to Cricket Creek Farm to begin developing cheese. While this did not lead to a final cheese for production, we were very excited to have begun the process, and actually make cheese on the farm!
Later that summer, Dick Sabot passed away very suddenly. This caused the family to re-evaluate the situation with the farm and the vision for the future. This time, while challenging, ended up being very productive and set the farm on the path to where we are today. Brain Stone left in November 2005 and Jude and Topher began the process of finding a replacement. Many people in the community were extremely helpful during this transition, and another meeting at Shelburne Farm steeled our resolve to make the farm a success. Sam Dixon, the Farm Manager at Shelburne, generously aided us as a consultant, and recommended former employees Jason DeMay and Amy Jeschawitz as candidates for running Cricket Creek.
Jason and Amy brought their herd of Brown Swiss to join the Cricket Creek Jerseys and worked tirelessly for several years to achieve the vision of a sustainable business and community asset. In September of 2009, Jason and Amy moved on – Jason to return to his family farm in western New York, and Amy to on new non-agricultural challenges in the area.
A significant portion of the milking herd left with Jason, but we continued operations and purchased eight new cows over the course of the fall. Since then Topher has been managing the daily operations of the farm. He now runs the business with Jamie Ott, Suzy Konecky, and Matthew Ball. Explore this website and check out our blog for more recent history and farm happenings.