Half Pint Farm in Burlington Closes Permanently | Food News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Food + Drink » Food News

Half Pint Farm in Burlington Closes Permanently

By

Half Pint Farm at the Burlington Farmers Market in 2019 - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Half Pint Farm at the Burlington Farmers Market in 2019

Longtime Burlington Farmers Market favorite Half Pint Farm has ended its 19-year run as a go-to source for delicate squash blossoms and abundant varieties of cherry tomatoes and chile peppers. The farm's co-owners, Emily and Sean Mitchell, confirmed the closure of the small Intervale farm that they bought in 2019 from its founders, Mara and Spencer Welton.

"We could never really make enough headway to work a sustainable schedule or even really hire a full staff," the couple wrote in an email. The Mitchells said they were juggling 100-hour workweeks with the care of their young daughter. "Not being able to be the parents we wanted to be coupled with the unsustainable work schedule took a deep toll on our mental and emotional health and we didn't see an end in sight," the email continued.

Emily had worked three seasons for the Weltons and thought she understood the challenges and opportunities of the business, but the pandemic added insurmountable hurdles, the couple said.

The Mitchells had just gotten their feet under them after their first year running Half Pint when COVID-19 "swept the rug out from under [our] plans," they wrote. "By the end of the [2020] season, we were back in a hole because of the huge hit to our wholesale and farmers market performance."

Through its almost two decades, Half Pint Farm expanded from a half acre to two and a half acres of Burlington's Intervale, rented from the Intervale Center as part of the nonprofit's original farm incubator program.

A mix of cherry tomatoes from Half Pint Farm - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • A mix of cherry tomatoes from Half Pint Farm

Intervale Center land manager Patrick Dunseith said the Mitchells' "experience highlights the challenges of new farmers ... When combined with a pandemic and many of their buyers upended, the uphill climb was that much steeper."

Dunseith said that another current Intervale farm, June Farm, is using some of the former Half Pint land to grow flowers this year. "We do not anticipate adding another farm at this time as we are trying to support the current farms to meet their existing needs and potential for growth," he wrote.

The Mitchells have moved back to southern Vermont, where they grew up, and landed jobs at the Weston, an inn with a farm-to-table restaurant that will relaunch this spring. Sean, who has a chef background, will be its executive chef; Emily will run a farm dedicated to supplying the hotel kitchen.

After a brief foray into the restaurant business with the now-closed Chile North in Burlington's New North End, Mara and Spencer Welton have restarted Chile Colorado, their southwestern food delivery operation, which also does pop-ups and catering.

In a written statement, the Weltons said, "We are so grateful for all of the years of support we received from our customers, growing for them was one of our fondest joys. We sincerely wish the outcome had gone differently, and we are deeply heartbroken over it, but we wish Emily and Sean well and know that sweet little patch of the Intervale will bring joy to whoever farms it."