All in the family at High Hedge Farm

Courtesy photo
Tara and Bruno Murphy with their son William at the Shelburne Farmers Market recently. The family owns and operates High Hedge Farm in Charlotte.

PHYL NEWBECK

Farming isn’t new to Bruno and Tara Murphy. The couple used to have a small farm in Charlotte but they had to sell it in 2013 when Green Mountain Coffee Roasters transferred Tara to Massachusetts. When she landed a new job as the CEO of Vermont Smoke and Cure in 2016, the couple was able to return to Charlotte. They purchased 165 acres and started High Hedge Farm.

“Bruno was raised on a farm,” Tara said, “and we always dreamed of starting our own. This land was a farm 40 years ago and we’ve been trying to reclaim the pasture. It’s been an awesome experience to bring the land back.”

At this point, the 47-year-old Bruno does almost all of the work on the farm, while Tara, 46, and their children help out. Their 20-year-old daughter enlisted in the U.S. Army but the couple’s 13 and 16-year-old sons – both wrestlers and football players – are willing to lend a hand.

“I don’t think the way modern meat is raised with antibiotics and hormones is right,” Tara said. “We grass finish our animals and use a specific breed to get the gourmet flavor.”

The couple’s 28 cows are all Rotokawa Devon, which Tara describes as the most common breed in New Zealand.

“If you give them corn, they get really fat,” she said. “When they are raised on grass, they stay tender and taste delicious. They are high in Omega-3 and CLA (conjugated lineolic acid from grass).”

High Hedge Farm also features pasture-raised pork.

“The pork industry as a whole raises pigs in enclosures, which is really sad,” Tara said. “That impacts the animals and the flavor of the meat.”

The couple’s four pigs are a Duroc/Hampshire cross.

“You can taste the sweetness without adding anything,” Tara said. “You don’t have to glaze it. The meat retains flavor because they are eating grass, apples, pumpkins and roots. It’s incredible to watch them in their natural habitat.”

Bruno and Tara also raise meat and laying hens. They sell their own honey for which they say they owe a debt to the farm’s former owners who had perennial gardens.

“There is a floral note in the honey,” Tara said. “Honey is like wine in that it depends on what the bees are getting into and the Champlain Valley has a plethora of flowers.”

Bruno and Tara currently sell their products at the Shelburne Farmers’ Market and the Old Brick Store in Charlotte. At the farmers’ market, Bruno cooks hamburgers so locavores can taste the difference in their beef. The couple has no plans for a farm store because their location on Ashe Road isn’t ideal for traffic, but they are considering other retail locations and restaurants. They sell directly to those who contact them for custom cuts.

Bruno also serves as a lister for Charlotte but tending to the farm and cooking are what he loves. Tara raves about the meals he creates.

“I don’t have formal training,” Bruno said. “It’s all about getting the highest quality ingredients. You can’t change something that isn’t good into a desirable dish.”

Starting a new farm can be frightening, but for Bruno it’s extremely satisfying.

“Every animal has come out great,” he said. “We’re continuing with rotational grazing and improving forage.”

Although the couple is considering expansion they won’t grow much.

“When you get too big you lose the ability to keep quality control,” Bruno said. “The smaller scale is quality over quantity.”

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