By: Christophe Hille
In 2012, Diana McCargo and Peter Swift purchased the Foote Farm, a historic fifth-generation dairy farm in Charlotte, Vermont, that had succumbed to the ongoing wave of farm closures impacting Vermont’s dairy sector for the past decade. The couple wanted to keep the 400-acre property as a working agricultural landscape but were well aware that the traditional dairy model was a decreasingly appealing proposition. Instead, they committed to developing a diversified farming practice on the property modeled on the principles of regenerative agriculture. Additionally, the couple wanted to share this approach with the region in a way that would turn the farm into a community gathering place and resource, and in turn, make the farm agriculturally sustainable.
Today, Philo Ridge Farm raises a small herd of 100 percent grass-fed Belted Galloway beef cattle, a mixed bunch of Tamworth and Berkshire pigs, Romney/Border Leister cross lambs and pastured chickens. The farm also produces a diversity of vegetables and fruits on two acres of certified organic land. The outlet for all of these products is at arm’s length for the farmers. It’s Philo Ridge Farm’s retail market, cafe and special events, which have become a growing destination for residents of the region seeking grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, prepared foods, house-made pastries, organic vegetables and more.
The goal is simple in premise and yet complex in practice: to operate as a vertically-integrated farm, with 100% of its products being used in the property’s food service and retail operations. Doing so now requires a staff of around 30 between vegetable and livestock farming, market and kitchen operations and overall management. As Philo Ridge Farm transitions from being an ambitious start-up regenerative agriculture operation to a fully integrated and self-sustaining farm-and-hospitality operation, the critical element will be skilled, nimble and experienced management to bring its multiple farm and hospitality activities together under a common mission, all rowing in the same direction (or grazing, perhaps, to use a more apt pasture-based metaphor).
This fall, Philo Ridge Farm engaged KK&P’s Good People division to assist the farm’s owners in recruiting a new General Manager to fill that critical role. This exciting and unique position will require a hands-on, entrepreneurial and creative leader who can guide the farm operationally and financially and be an ambassador of Philo Ridge’s core values and company mission. Philo Ridge Farm has an extraordinary foundation of values, talented people working in its fields and food service and a remarkable opportunity before it as a leader in the region for a new approach to agriculture. With the right manager at the helm, we’re confident that their vision will succeed.
The KK&P recruiting approach centers on the careful development of a comprehensive and nuanced job posting as well as a deliberate strategy for spreading awareness of the opportunity, including general and niche job websites and outreach to our extensive sector networks. Throughout the recruiting process, the KK&P team focuses on due diligence, from multi-staged interviews (telephone and in-person), reference and background checks, close collaboration with the hiring team and careful cultivation of the strongest candidates. Our process doesn’t end with the hire: our team provides regular coaching sessions with successful candidates during the first three months of employment to ensure their success.