It was 1999. My mother, Lois, now owner of West Meadow Farm Bakery, had recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. She joined and helped run the Celiac Support group of Vermont. The group decided to host Dr Alesio Fasano to help further his research. Dr Fasano had a theory that Celiac Disease was more prevalent than they thought, and that it was hereditary. He was willing to, free of charge, test every 1st and 2nd degree relative of someone with celiac disease. My sister, my grandmother, and I all got tested.
I was a Sophomore in high school, my grades were slipping, and my stomach constantly ached. It got to the point of being in so much pain I felt as though I couldn’t even stand up. I never told anyone, so I secretly hoped that this test was going to be the answer to my problems.
The tests came back. My test was positive. My grandmother’s test was positive. My sisters was negative (however she has since tested positive).
The blood test was just the start of getting the diagnosis. My grandmother was 82, so she decided to not test further. I needed an endoscopy. Lois’s doctor, Dr M. had supposed that celiac affected approximately 1 in 5000. The primary pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr C. refused to test as he didn’t believe children could have the disease. On the advice of my pediatrician, Dr Joe Hagan, I was sent to adult gastroenterologist, Dr Alex John. Dr John ran the endoscopy and confirmed my diagnosis of Celiac Disease.
I was 15 years old.
I was a vegetarian.
I was a picky eater.
Lois had her work cut out for her. But like any loving mother, she set to work to make food that I would like, and maybe more importantly, food I could proudly share with my friends. She started by trying family recipes with alternate flour blends. Then she expanded to requests by myself and other members of the support group.
By 2003, she had enough successful recipes and enough encouragement from the members of the support group to open a bakery out of her home. She offered limited selections to local natural food markets: City Market, Healthy Living, and Hunger Mountain.
In 2009, Lois moved to 34 Park St, Essex Junction VT. She formed a team with interns from the New England Culinary Institute, and the Center for Technology - Essex. With her new crew she developed flour blends that can replace traditional wheat flour cup for cup.
In 2010, I moved back to Vermont, having moved to New Hampshire for a job directly out of college. I initially started working with my mom to help her out, but have since become Lois’s business partner. Together we have grown the business to where it is today. We’ve expanded the number of stores we serve and have picked up accounts with restaurants, and colleges in the area. In 2011 we worked closely with American Flatbread, Burlington Hearth to develop a flatbread pizza crust that they would be proud to serve.
Now we are moving to 4 Carmichael St, Essex Junction VT to continue growing and serving the Celiac and Gluten-Free population of Vermont and the surrounding area. Our goal has always been to serve our customers. However, now with our new space we want to expand our dreams of what is possible.
Who hasn't dreamed of going to a cafe, having a cup of coffee and a pastry free from the fear of contamination? Bring your friends and sit in our new retail space and enjoy a bagel or muffin or scone (Bring your gluten-loving friends along too. They won't even notice the difference!)
Our first goal is to fit up our new location to make a comfortable space for you to come and get your favorite gluten-free goodies. We have procured seating, but we still need partitions and lighting.
Once we have achieved that, our second goal is to upgrade your experience with an espresso bar to serve coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and other beverages.
We need your help to make this dream a reality because the basic fit up is going to cost us around $7000, and to add the espresso bar will be an additional $3000.
Your support means the world to us, and we thank you from the bottom of our ovens for your patronage over the years, and for your ongoing support. We will continue to strive to give you the best gluten-free products and experience possible!
Yours in baking,
Sarah and The West Meadow Farm Team