Hildene – The Lincoln Family Home
Hildene is located in Vermont’s southwest corner, The Shires, in Manchester Village, close to many popular ski areas. It was the summer home for Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert and his wife, Mary.
Robert was the President of the Pullman Company, the largest manufacturing business in the US at the turn of the century.
He built Hildene in 1905, and it stayed in the family for 70 years. Now, it is owned by the Friends of Hildene, a non-profit organization.
Today’s Hildene is rooted in Abraham Lincoln’s values, but committed to educating for the 21st century. Everything it does from historic preservation to sustainable farming is driven by it’s mission – Values into Action. I can’t begin to describe the beauty of Hildene.
In 2009, the Friends of Hildene reintroduced farming to promote sustainability and education at the property. They built the post and beam barn which houses the goats and the cheese making operation.
They keep a herd of Nubian goats to make chevre and washed-rind goat milk tomme, and they purchase milk to make cow milk tomme. These cheeses are available to buy at the Welcome Center and through their wholesale purveyor, Provisions International, Ltd.
Maarit Ostrow (28) is the head cheese maker. Maarit is originally from Worcester, MA. She first became interested in dairy farming at the Putney School where Peter Dixon, a nationally known cheese maker and consultant, spoke in one of her science classes.
She went on to get her BA from Brandeis University (in Art History), but after working part time at both a dairy farm and an art museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she realized office work wasn’t for her. So, she returned to New England and got a job at Formaggio Kitchen South End in Boston, a popular cut-to-order cheese shop specializing in unique European imports.
From there, she secured an apprenticeship at Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, MA where she continued to develop her cheese making skills. Now, she is in charge of all the cheese production at Hildene with assistance from other Hildene Farm staff.
Maarit runs a very tight ship. I was asked to bring a change of clothes for the transition from the barn to the make room. We wore hairnets and we donned special boots which we washed when we moved from one room to another. The barn was designed for best flow from high risk areas to low risk areas and Maarit is very carefully adhering to “best practices.”
Visiting the Dairy Barn
Visits begin at the Welcome Center where you can hop on a tram to all venues including: the goat dairy and cheese making facility at Hildene Farm, The Lincoln Family home and gardens, Pullman car, Sunbeam, and the Dene Farm.
The Viewing Windows
The Make Room
The Labeling Area
Maarit is working on a new cheese for Hildene – a leaf wrapped fromage blanc. (Stay tuned!)
I was completely enchanted by Hildene and I hope you have the opportunity to go there. If you do, wave to Maarit through the viewing window (if she isn’t out in the barn, petting the goats!)