Heather Kraemer is brewing beer with lemon balm and basil grown in her garden.
In the future, she hopes to add fruit, perennials, and wild edibles to the mix. Ultimately, she plans to operate a farm-based brewery in Vermont’s Champlain Islands.
Kraemer, who completed the UVM Farmer Training Program in 2018, moved from Alaska to Vermont to start a brewery, Kraemer & Kin, with her brother and sister-in-law, Levi and Christine Kraemer. Kraemer recently participated in an information session with Farmer Training Program Director Rachel Stievater and shared her experience in the 6-month farming program.
“I’ve always wanted to have a social, hospitality-type business, and I wanted it to be around beer,” she says. “My family grew up in a homesteading situation, and we grew a ton of our food in summer and did a lot of harvesting. That is the lifestyle that I ultimately want to embody, and a huge piece of that is growing food and agricultural products.”
Six years ago, the trio established a hop yard, North Hero Hops & Agriculture, on Christie’s family property in North Hero. They operate a three-barrel system in their garage in Grand Isle. The brewery opened in February; in July, they opened a tasting room inside the GreenTARA Space art gallery and community center in North Hero.
Kraemer & Kin beer can also be found the Keeler’s Bay Variety in South Hero and Harborside Harvest Market in North Hero. Their beer is on tap at the North Hero House and Shore Acres Inn and Restaurant.
Building Toward a Farm-Based Brewery
Kraemer eventually wants to create an agro-tourism business that bridges “field-to-glass” and introduces patrons to the raw materials at every stage in the growing and brewing process.
“We’re growing hops, herbs, and doing a series of wheat beers with basil and lemon balm. We love introducing those things in beer as herbs are not traditionally in beer. You’ll find them in much older styles of beer, but it’s not part of the modern beer experience,” she says. “Our future dreamscape will include more perennials, fruit trees, and perennial berries. We also love brewing with wood sorrel, dandelions, sumac, and other natural elements that are less welcome in yards.”
Kraemer studied sociology and graduated from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She enrolled in the UVM Farmer Training program to enhance her growing and agriculture skills.
“We were exposed to homesteading growing up, and farming is in my blood and part of me,” she says. “But I didn’t feel confident in my skillset professionally, so I wanted to turn my passion into knowledge.”
In the UVM Farmer Training program, students learn how to drive a tractor as well as grow, harvest, and market vegetables. They produce everything from radish and arugula to pumpkins and potatoes.
“The UVM instructors are exceptionally dynamic, super intelligent, and super patient. They provide the best learning environment and remove any intimation around the professional parts of agriculture, and the business side of farming,” she says. “I’ve gained a much greater sense of confidence to try new things. I don’t need a 10-acre farm to do it, and there’s already so much I’m doing that feels awesome.”
The UVM Farmer Training Program is now accepting applications for summer 2021.