(First appeared in the August 19th edition of the Vermont Standard)
By Laura Power
Special To The Standard
When potential customers see Tina Tuckerman’s eclectic array of eggs, produce, pickles, breads, jams and jellies, many of them ask her, “Where did you buy all this?” The compact, spunky thirty-something always flashes a good-natured smile. She explains that the goods she brings to Woodstock’s Wednesday afternoon Market on the Green are the result of hard work, and are from her own chickens and fields, or her own modest kitchen. “It’s fun,” she says of her enterprise, One Chicken At a Time, “it’s kind of an old country farm.”
Tuckerman’s love of producing from the land grew from family tradition. Her grandparents owned the largely self-sufficient Barr farm in South Woodstock, where her father, and then later Tuckerman herself, were raised. Now, she and husband Brad run One Chicken At a Time from their eleven-acre property on Gulf Road in Barnard. They started by adopting an old hen and a likewise elderly rooster from the Lucy MacKenzie Humane Society. In spite of her age, the hen produced one chick a day, which inspired the name the Tuckermans chose for their farm. Eventually they accumulated dozens of chickens, and an abundance of eggs, which Tuckerman began selling at farmers’ markets. She added other items over time.
Produce season at One Chicken at a Time begins with fiddleheads. The unusual spiral ferns grow wild on the farm for only a week or two in the spring, but Tuckerman and her daughters, Lily, 7, and Violet, 5, know just where to find them, and how to pick them. After a painstaking cleaning process that requires multiple soaks in a big tub followed by careful agitation, Tuckerman preserves the fiddleheads by pickling them. When summer arrives and the cultivated garden vegetables begin to mature she harvests and sells fresh tomatoes, beets, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, beans, and peas. Some of the produce is also reserved for pickling; dilly beans, bread and butter pickles, and dill pickles, along with the fiddleheads, are the most popular pickled products, but Tuckerman puts up about twenty varieties.
Baking is a year round endeavor. For summer markets, there are scones and quiches plus eight or ten kinds of breads and rolls. Tuckerman says that she particularly favors the rosemary and feta combination, but her table also displays loaves of twelve grain, herb and garlic, cheese, mixed berry, sour dough rye, oatmeal, and cinnamon raisin. And right next to them there are stacked jars of jams and jellies. Blueberry and raspberry come from her own bushes; the maple jelly is the product of the family’s latest addition to their many enterprises. Last year, they built a sugarhouse on the farm, and this spring produced the first batch of maple syrup from it.
All the toil of farming and cooking, the weeding and picking, the kneading and canning, the carrying, loading, and unloading, could become drudgery to some. But not for Tuckerman. “I work really hard, I have achy muscles, I feel good at the end of the day,” she says, “It’s a ball. I would do it twenty-four seven.” In fact, though, she fits farm chores in around her job as an elementary school special
educator, her “second” career for the last twelve years.
Tina Tuckerman will be the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Challenge featured vendor on August 25 at the Woodstock Market on the Green. She’ll be offering a sampling of breads and cooking up a stir-fry with her own vegetables and fresh fettuccini from Green Mountain Pasta. Come meet her, and have a taste at 4:00 and 5:15 p.m.