Dave Quickel’s first farming experience was running the CSA at Pizza on Earth. “That was my first farm job when I really didn’t know anything,” he said. Quickel subsequently moved to Oregon to start a CSA during the early days of that movement when the concept was not well-known across the country. In the late 1990s he returned to Vermont and his position at Pizza on Earth, but when the owners there became more invested in the prepared food part of the business, it was time to move on.
Quickel met his wife while she was finishing her dissertation, and the pair decided they wanted something they could call their own. They were living in western Massachusetts when some of the Charlotte residents who used to belong to the Pizza on Earth CSA called to let him know they missed having their regular pick-ups.
“We had a meeting with people in Charlotte,” Quickel recalls. “They were successful business people and they had lots of ideas. I came up with a list of things that we needed and as a team we tackled it and that was the beginning of Stony Loam Farm.”
Quickel’s initial business plan was to run a CSA, but after three years, membership levelled off at roughly 100, so there was excess produce. Quickel began bringing that excess to Shelburne Supermarket, and the following year, the store requested that he plant crops specifically for them.
Over the years, Stony Loam has changed from exclusively a CSA to 25% CSA and 75% wholesale. A similar change occurred when Quickel became a vendor at the Shelburne Farmers Market. “Initially I walked around and wondered how it would work since so many people had the same stuff,” he said. Quickel solved that problem by using his stand to cook breakfast food with eggs, kale, and other produce from his farm.
The first thing that drew Quickel–an avid outdoorsman–to Charlotte was the setting nestled between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains. On top of that, Quickel feels a real sense of community. He continues to have relationships with many of the people who enticed him to come back 16 years ago.
Quickel knows a little something about relationships. Five years ago, at the request of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, he hosted a weed-dating event for singles. He knows of at least one relationship which grew (no pun intended) out of that event. Hinesburg Road separates his house from the farm, and the family babysitter ended up crossing the road and meeting a long-time farm employee while pulling weeds.
Farming is hard work and subject to all kinds of variables, but Quickel loves what he does. “It’s so satisfying to make it all work,” he said. “It’s such a test of skills.”
Quickel doesn’t deny that there are the occasional setbacks, both meteorological and otherwise, but he doesn’t take them personally. “When it works, it’s really exciting to pull it off,” he said. “It feels like a victory over and over again. There can be a sense of futility if you let it, but there is great excitement in succeeding.”