- Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
This "backstory" is a part of a collection of articles that describes some of the obstacles that Seven Days reporters faced while pursuing Vermont news, events and people in 2021.
I'm not surprised that a story about mealworms is my most memorable of 2021. Even if it had gone according to plan, I'd still tell all my friends about hanging out underneath the parlor of an old dairy barn, surrounded by 2.4 million wriggling insects. It really grosses them out.
But on my way to interview Bob Simpson and Heather Adams at Vermont Mealworm Farm in Braintree, I got horribly lost. I had recently moved from Burlington to Vergennes, which makes getting to the eastern side of the state — by way of two mountain ranges — a bit more complicated.
I made it over the Ripton Gap no problem, zipping around hairpin turns with my Mini Cooper in sport mode. Then, halfway up Bethel Mountain Road in Rochester, I found that the road had been unceremoniously closed. I had zero cell service.
I did my best geographic guessing and skirted around the mountain instead, showing up 45 minutes late at the 900-acre hilltop farm, where Bob and Heather promptly led me to the basement bug room.
A couple of hours later, I headed home with a bag of mealworm frass on the passenger seat. To be safe, I thought I'd take a more familiar route, to Warren and over Lincoln Gap.
I grew up in Vermont, and my dad taught me to appreciate back roads and shortcuts. But the truth is: I'm not a great driver even when I know where I'm going. After the morning's disorienting twists and turns, I probably should have steered clear of the state's highest-elevation vehicle-accessible road.
I was white-knuckling it down the west side of the gap when a peach stand suddenly appeared on the side of the still-dirt road. I skidded into the driveway so fast that the frass hit the dashboard.
Todd Goodyear glanced up from carefully arranging pyramids of peaches, plums and pears to greet me. As we chatted, I realized I'd stumbled upon the home base of his family's summer gig, Paradise Fruit. The door-to-door fruit-delivery business had been on my list of story ideas for months.
If I'm doing this whole journalism thing right, one story should naturally lead to the next. But the only place I'd expected mealworms to lead to peaches was in a compost pile.
Todd and I set up an interview for the following week at the Addison County Fair & Field Days — a much easier drive. I bought 10 pounds of fruit on the spot out of sheer gratitude.
Back in the car, I buckled the bag of peaches into the passenger seat for good measure, except for one of the white doughnut variety that I grabbed off the top to sample. The juice dripped down my arm the rest of the way down the mountain.