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August Must-Dos: Island Line Trail, Sunflower House and More

Words and photos courtesy of Seven Days

August Must-Dos: Island Line Trail, Sunflower House and More
By Jordan Adams and Melissa Pasanen

Cedar Circle Farm and Education Center
225 Pavillion Rd., East Thetford, 785-4737

Oh, to be Ni, one of the Cedar Circle Farm cats. On any given day, she might be tucked into a basket on the farmstand counter, watching a parade of farm-grown veggies, fresh-baked scones and locally raised meats head into the shopping bags of happy customers. Or she might be hanging out in one of several verdant greenhouses, supervising seed starting for the extensive pick-your-own flower fields or the wide variety of potted landscaping and vegetable plants.

If the handsome tiger-striped cat could talk, perhaps Ni would confide that her favorite spot is basking in a puddle of sunshine and being doted upon by youngsters in Cedar Circle's twice-weekly Little Farmers drop-in program before they head off to learn how ladybugs help the farm maintain Earth-friendly growing practices.

No matter where this people-loving cat happens to be, there's always something to see on the 20-year-old organic farm, which celebrates its first year as a nonprofit in 2021. Families can pick sun-warmed berries and rainbows of flowers. Picnickers can settle at wooden tables to tuck into crisp salads, focaccia sandwiches and chewy rosemary-ginger cookies, all made in the farm kitchen. Visitors can also take a self-guided farm tour while sipping an iced organic espresso from the on-site Hello Café.

According to executive director Eric Tadlock, every offering at Cedar Circle revolves around helping people see, taste, smell and hear "how food choices are their daily opportunity to play a role in reducing negative environmental impacts."

In the area...
Copper Mine Falls, 1640 S. Vershire Rd., Vershire
Thetford Hill State Park, Academy Road, Thetford
Vermontasaurus, 104 Robinson Hill Rd., Thetford

Local Motion Interactive Biking and Walking Map

Local Motion, 1 Steele St., Burlington, 861-2700

Though it might be nice to have a Pacific Coast Highway-style route along Lake Champlain, Vermont has largely kept roadways away from the littoral gem. The only way to cruise alongside the 125-mile body of water for an extended period of time is on bike or foot. Cyclists and pedestrians in the Burlington area can soak up miles and miles of its beauty on the Island Line Trail, a 14-mile path that spans the South End of Burlington to the southern tip of Grand Isle County.

To help intrepid travelers on their journey, Local Motion — a Queen City bike rental shop and nonprofit advocacy organization that also runs the Colchester Causeway bike ferry — has introduced a fully interactive web-based map at vtbikeped.org. The map traces the Island Line Trail from its starting point in Oakledge Park across the causeway to its final destination in South Hero. Noteworthy attractions, parks, restaurants, shops and other sites are marked on the map and pointed out along the way.

"A majority of Local Motion's bike rental customers and bike ferry passengers are from out of town," Tom Clark, Local Motion's director of services, noted in a press release. "It's really important that we welcome visitors by helping them to get around and discover all the cool places to drink, eat and shop."

The map includes locations directly adjacent to the trail, as well as other hot spots nearby. And since it's brand-new for the 2021 summer season, expect more and more points of interest to be added as the days roll on.

Also try...
Lamoille Valley Bike Tours, 661 Railroad St., Johnson, 730-0161
Sojourn Bicycling & Active Vacations, 166 Athletic Dr., Shelburne, 425-4771
Vermont Bike & Brew, 242 Academy Rd., Thetford, 274-2277

Retreat Farm

45 Farmhouse Sq., Brattleboro, 490-2270

Two words to pique your interest in Brattleboro's Retreat Farm: goat yoga. Downward dog arched over an adorable baby goat? Yes, please. It might not be the chillest yoga class, but it certainly would be the cutest. (Just don't bring your best yoga mat; goats like to taste everything!)


If goat yoga isn't your thing, the nonprofit Retreat Farm offers a full schedule of mostly free and enticing agricultural, outdoor and arts activities, as well as bushels of good eats. The latter includes produce and pastured meats from a pay-what-you-can farmstand, maple creemees, cold-brew coffee, and fresh-squeezed lemonade.

There are 10 miles of trails for exploring, a vegetable and flower garden labyrinth for meandering and snacking, and plenty of friendly farm animals for visiting. An interpretive pathway explains the land's history as the former working farm of the Brattleboro Retreat.

"We want to be a grounding hub," said Retreat Farm's Lindsay Fahey, "a place of connection to the land and to the community."

Retreat Farm's team creates a monthly forest storybook walk — August features Milo Imagines the World, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson — and presents regular guided tours of the piggery and the meadows. Wednesday art sessions for kids offer a treasure chest of nature crowns, painted rocks and mud sculptures. Thursday evening's Food Truck Roundup showcases global flavors, from South Indian dosas to Jamaican jerk, along with music by area bands.

On August 21, the farm and the Brattleboro Music Center copresent a free outdoor concert featuring Caribbean beats by Brooklyn's Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra. Hope the musicians arrive in time for Saturday morning goat yoga.

In the area...
Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, 10 Vernon St., Brattleboro, 257-0124
Grafton Village Cheese Specialty Cheese & Wine Shop, 400 Linden St., Brattleboro, 472-3866
Hermit Thrush Brewery, 29 High St., Suite 101C, Brattleboro, 257-2337

Sunflower House & Gardens at Billings Farm & Museum
69 Old River Rd., Woodstock, 457-2355. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See website for season schedule and special events.

Sunflowers can grow up to a staggering 14 feet tall. Imagine being surrounded by 20,000 square feet of the towering golden blossoms. Talk about flower power! This summer, the dream comes true at the Sunflower House & Gardens at Woodstock's Billings Farm & Museum. The jaw-dropping spectacle opens on Saturday, July 31, and is expected to remain a glorious sight through early September.

Sunflower Fields in Vermont

Photo courtesy of Billings Farm & Museum

Landscape architect and master gardener Benjamin Pauly designed the Sunflower House and nearby pollinator gardens. Billings Farm is a Bee Friendly Farm certified by the nonprofit Pollinator Partnership, which helps farms take steps to ensure the health and well-being of pollinators of all sorts.

"From building a bee bath with clean water to creating small stick houses for laying eggs, there's a lot to learn about pollinators," Pauly said in a press release. "Although it's popular for its picturesque structure, the sunflower house serves the greater purpose of providing native flowers for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds."

Upcoming events focus on the floral and apiarian attractions. Visitors can enjoy a midmorning guided meditation among the sunflowers on Sunday, August 22, as well as mindfulness programs every Monday through August 30. Plus, a pollinator celebration replete with food and beverages from White River Junction's Trail Break taps + tacos hits the farm on Saturday and Sunday, August 28 and 29.

In the area...

Andrew Pearce Bowls, 59 Woodstock Rd., Hartland, 735-1884
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 54 Elm St., Woodstock, 281-2446
Mon Vert Café, 28 Central St., Woodstock, 457-7143

About the series

This series, a partnership between Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing and Seven Days, will run seasonally, presenting curated excursions in every corner of Vermont. The idea is to highlight the state's restaurants, retailers, attractions and outdoor adventures so Vermonters and visitors alike can plan safe, local trips and discover new corners of the state. Happy traveling, and stay safe.