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What’s Brewing at Wicked Bines Farm

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Mike Noyes holds a six-week old piglet. Photo by Jess Turner.
For Mike Noyes of Wicked Bines Farm, farming is more than a commercial pursuit; it’s an all-in lifestyle, steeped in history.

Mike and his wife Cindy, who works in healthcare, bought their bucolic plot on Marvin Road in Berlin in 2009. Their 20 acres are adjacent to the dairy farm where Cindy grew up, and Wicked Bines now manages the hundreds of acres next door, the same land that Cindy’s family began farming in the 1940s and 50s. They use the land for hay and for pasturing the organic, grass-fed meats that fill the freezers in their farm store. 

Pasture-raising animals without hormones and antibiotics is crucially important to Noyes. He employs rotational grazing practices, moving his cattle to a new pasture every few days in order to maintain the health of his animals as well as the integrity of the land. And it makes for a better product.

“Food is fuel, and some of what’s in the grocery store isn’t even food,” he says. “Everything here is born and raised right here. I want my kids to see this process, to know where their food comes from. And this is the best classroom to have.”

In addition to beef, the Wicked Bines Farm store features free-range eggs, pasture-raised chicken and pork, and in the fall, all-natural turkeys, processed right before Thanksgiving so they can be sold fresh, never frozen. The most popular items in the store are ground beef, bacon, and, always, eggs. With over 500 chickens, egg production is strong, and not only does the farm sell eggs directly to their many faithful customers, but also to several commercial accounts, including Red Hen Baking Co. in Middlesex and Bread & Butter Farm in Shelburne. 

In its earliest days, Wicked Bines began as a hop farm. A bine is the flexible stem of a climbing plant that, in the case of hops, is trained to climb up a vertical support. Mike and Cindy’s eldest daughter once described their young hop yard as “wicked nice,” and the name of the family farm was born. 

Inspired by Vermont’s craft beer boom and his own interest in homebrewing, Mike began growing hops commercially in 2012. He now dedicates an acre-and-a-half to hop production and grows three varieties of the flower. Wicked Bines supplies Vermont breweries such as Black Flannel Brewing of Essex Junction and Rock Art Brewery in Morrisville with the essential beer-making ingredient, along with providing home brewers the opportunity to buy hops directly, either in raw form or already processed.

Mike describes hops as a difficult crop to grow, citing factors such as changing climate, vulnerability to blight, and its labor-intensive nature as challenges.

“When craft beer really took off, there were a few small hop yards around Vermont,” he says. “So I got a working lands grant to buy the equipment to harvest a small hop yard. It wouldn’t have been worth it for a small farm to invest in such a big, specialized piece of equipment.”

As part of his overall “no waste” philosophy of farming, Mike not only uses the hops harvester for his own crop, but he will travel to other farms, dedicating the Hopster 5P on an hourly basis to their harvests. Wicked Bines is the only hop farm in Vermont that can deliver this service of “mobile harvesting.”

The community mindset is what drives many of the Noyes family’s farming practices. Their pigs are fed local dairy products from partners such as Cabot Creamery, spent brewing grain from local breweries, and produce grown on the farm as well as produce provided by Community Harvest of Central Vermont, an organization dedicated to gleaning vegetables that would otherwise go to waste on other area farms. 

Mike describes his dedication to hard work and healthy food systems as core values. He says he wants to show that “if you work hard, small farms aren’t dead.”

“It’s not an easy life, but it’s a great life and I still enjoy it,” he says. “And my office has a great view.”

Wicked Bines Farm is located at 407 Marvin Road in Berlin. The self-service farm store is open seven days a week and takes cash and checks. wickedbinesfarm.com

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