The Storied History of Spring-Rock Farm
Wagyu cattle have a rich history, with deep Japanese roots. Wagyu cattle were originally brought into the US during a short period of time in the last century, and today Wagyu is still very rare. In the Northeast, Vermont Wagyu at Spring-Rock Farm is one of several sites raising these Japanese cows. There are a number of farms with just a handful of wagyu, but there are only three with over 200 full-blood wagyu. Vermont Wagyu was the first Full-Blood Wagyu breeder in New England.
Aside from the incredible legacy of Wagyu cattle, Spring-Rock Farm is rich in history all its own. The farm was built atop Parker Hill, spanning Springfield and Rockingham, Vermont (hence the name Spring-Rock), in the same year that President George Washington gave his first State of the Union Address. That was in 1790, and Vermont would not officially gain statehood until the following spring. Today, nestled not far from the Connecticut River border between Vermont and New Hampshire, Spring-Rock Farm remains a working reminder of the original farming community of the area.
The farm was established by the Fletcher family, led by Peter Fletcher and his son, David. The Fletchers were settlers, looking for a steady life. Working the land and maintaining a homestead was much more attractive to them than the prospect of setting out as hunters and trappers, always on the move. And so, the family built a home and farm to fulfill their basic needs, raising barns for their livestock and designing housing to fit each member of the family.
For nearly 100 years, the Fletcher family lived on and maintained the land, before selling the house to a man named George Tanner. Tanner would go on to add an heirloom apple orchard and continue to use the three barns for a herd of dairy cows, maintaining the farm as his own until the 1920s. The farm has continued to change hands over the years, but always with great care to maintain and respect its storied history. Under the ownership of the Luce family, plumbing and electricity were added to the historic buildings in the 1960s. In 2005, well water was first added by the Stillman family.
Today, the farm is a part of the Parker Hill District , a National Historic Site designated in 1993, consisting of the 25 buildings built in the late 1700s and early 1800s that supported this farming community.
Most recently, the Patinkin family settled on the property in 2006, operating the land as the Wagyu farm it is today. Dr. Sheila Patinkin, who owns and operates Spring-Rock Farm, grew up going to high school just down the road before leaving for college. After retiring from medicine in the mid-2000’s, she was inspired to return to the area and start farming. Her cousin raises Wagyu in Montana, and so Sheila bought 20 Embryos from Washington State that resulted in her first 10 calves. She now has 400 full-blood Wagyu locally, is personally involved with their care and diets, and could tell you the name of every cattle under her care. Each animal has certified full-blood parentage through the American Wagyu Association. Her livestock supervisor and esteemed advisor is Roger Osinchuk, a Veterinarian from an Alberta Canada Angus ranch homestead. In addition to the Full-Blood Wagyu, the farm is also home to chickens and bunnies, as well as herd dog Riley, and livestock guardian dog, Luigi, to the delight of Sheila’s grandchildren.
The mission of the farm is to build a profitable community in and around Vermont by helping others interested in raising or cross-breeding wagyu. The farm incorporates 350 acres in total and is ideally situated for this project. It’s small, featuring just five and ten acre hillside pastures with natural features that protect the Wagyu from harsh wind and snowdrifts. “Our goal is to be a small farm forever,” Patinkin said.
Want to learn even more about the history of Parker Hill, Vermont? Check out Hamlet in the Hills by Gladness Wharton Luce.
Or, curious to see our farm in action today? Stop on by! We warmly invite visitors, but request that you call first for an appointment as we are not always at home and we do not have set office hours. Call 847-702-7812, or text, and we will arrange your visit.Live too far from VT to visit? Experience the farm in your own kitchen when you order VT Wagyu beef online.
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From Japan to the US: A History of Wagyu Beef
The literal translation of “Wagyu” is “Japanese cow”--but don’t be deceived by the simplicity of its name. The story of how Wagyu made its way to the modern American dinner table, and why it has earned it such high praise as a premium product, is as rich and culturally-significant as the beef itself.