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Shelburne Farms Adds Limited Activities and Events but Inn and Restaurant Remain Closed


Inn at Shelburne Farms gardens and restaurant guests during a past season - COURTESY MARSHALL WEBB
  • Courtesy Marshall Webb
  • Inn at Shelburne Farms gardens and restaurant guests during a past season
Elegant meals in the marble-floored dining room and terrace of the stately Inn at Shelburne Farms will have to wait until next year, but the public is still welcome to stroll the inn's formal gardens or sign up for a weekly garden tour.

There are no tractor rides currently running from the welcome center to the farm barn, but families and other visitors can walk the trails to the barn and visit the animals in the children's farmyard.

While milking demonstrations and other educator-led programs are on hold, the doors to the cheesemaking viewing room in the farm barn will reopen June 28. Visitors will once again be able to "watch the cheesemakers do their magic," said Robin Turnau, the nonprofit's chief advancement officer.

The Vermont institution and National Historic Landmark is gradually expanding activities and limited events this summer, although offerings will be  minimal compared with a normal schedule.

Shelburne Farms' 24-room inn and restaurant will remain closed to the public for the second season, Turnau confirmed. The decision had to be made back in January, she explained. That is  when the organization starts the lengthy process of reopening the seasonal operation and hiring 125 temporary employees.

"It was a difficult decision. We love welcoming people to dine and stay," Turnau said in a phone interview. In the winter, it was hard to know what the future held, she continued. "We felt we couldn't necessarily look ahead with confidence to operate at a high occupancy rate and there was likelihood we would have to operate at a loss."

Turnau said that four private cottages on the property are available for extended single-family stays; they are mostly booked at this point, although there are a few openings and a waiting list. One family of regular visitors to Shelburne Farms with "deep ties to Vermont" has rented the Inn for the whole season, Turnau said.

These guests must all cook for themselves, however. Restaurant kitchen staff led by executive chef John Patterson are busy with the prepared foods offerings they have been selling through the Shelburne Farms welcome center.
On June 18, the kitchen prepared 30 picnics for a trial picnic evening on the farm, which went well. "It was kind of a pilot project," Turnau said. "We hope to do more but it depends on the capacity of the kitchen."

Shelburne Farms will host a fundraiser picnic for the Vermont Fresh Network on August 7, for which the kitchen staff will prepare picnics featuring products from the farm and other local farms. Tickets will be on sale by July 1 via Vermont Fresh Network. The picnic will be a kickoff to Vermont Open Farm Week.

The nonprofit continues its core work of inspiring and cultivating learning for a sustainable future, Turnau said. This  includes working with youngsters from the Winooski school district, Burlington's Sustainability Academy and the Sara Holbrook Community Center in Burlington.

For now, as it has been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, public access to the grounds is by donation rather than the usual set fee. (Annual membership includes access.)  All visitors must park at the welcome center and walk to farm destinations unless they request a driving pass due to mobility challenges.
A family on a walking trail at Shelburne Farms - COURTESY DARIA BISHOP
  • Courtesy Daria Bishop
  • A family on a walking trail at Shelburne Farms

Turnau recommended that people check the online calendar, sign up for the farm newsletter or keep an eye on social media for upcoming events such as an August 3 workshop on herbal syrups and spritzers with Spoonful Herbals.