Photographed by Lily Landes. Lily is a documentary and portrait photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
There’s something ethereal about Bragg Farm: The way it’s framed by peaks laced with ski trails in contrasting shades of green, how its majestic barn teeters slightly without toppling. At first glance, it’s a still scene—until a hairnet-donning woman with a contagious smile pokes her head out from a corner of the barn, calling out hello.
Meet Marisa Mauro. She’s been making cheese since the age of 15, and, after opening Ploughgate Creamery in 2008, has crafted award-winning wheels—including a washed rind called Willoughby. Three years into the venture, however, tragedy struck: Her facility caught fire and burned down. Convinced that her dairy career was finished, Mauro sold the Willoughby recipe to Jasper Hill Farm and moved on.
Mauro was waiting tables a couple of years later when she heard about a historic dairying property, Bragg Farm, for sale via the Vermont Land Trust.
After one visit, she knew it was time to revive Ploughgate Creamery—but this time, she would make cultured butter. Vying against 13 other contenders for buying rights, her business plan won over the Trust. After a year of tireless recipe development, construction, and equipment sourcing, Ploughgate’s first batches of butter were released in 2014.
Today, Mauro’s paper-wrapped eight-ounce bars (some studded with simple sea salt, others with seasonal additions such as ramps or chive flowers) and five-pound balls (often served communal-style in bars and restaurants) are gaining a local following. It’s little wonder; her culturing process results in an unctuous mass that’s tangy and sweet, with delicate grassy, nutty notes. Those flavors hint at Mauro’s slow and careful crafting, so we traveled to Vermont’s Mad River Valley to witness it ourselves.