Sarah and Sean Gingue
Sister/Brother from other Mister/Mother:

Sarah & Shawn Gingue of NEK Grains

Meet Sarah and Shawn Gingue! They are the brains and brawn behind the Gingue Family Farm and NEK Grains in Waterford, Vermont. The Gingue farm has been around since the 1950s, and Shawn and Sarah are the fourth generation to manage it. Gingue Family Farm is a classic VT farm story. They’d originally been primarily a dairy, but in 2015 this new generation envisioned how to diversify the farm and now grow and process wheat, raise heifers, and run a farm store.

When Shawn and Sarah first started working on the family farm again, they originally intended to keep it as a functioning dairy. Declining milk prices in 2015 precipitated their thinking about a shift from dairy. Shawn’s father soon sold the dairy herd, but they continued raising heifers. At the time, Shawn attended a grain conference in Vermont and realized they could shift the farm from a dairy to something else while keeping it viable for future generations. They have four kids, and wanted to create something that could be there in the future for them.

Over the next five years, Shawn and Sarah experimented. They started growing barley and sent that off to be malted immediately. A year later they grew their first wheat crop. After the first couple years of growing these crops, they saw that there was a market for locally grown grains, so they continued in that direction. Finally, in 2020 they officially started NEK Grains. They purchased a wheat crop that Shawn’s father grew on the farm and initially intended to sell it in bulk at commodity prices.

Soon, they started making connections with miller and bread makers and met the owners of Elmore Mountain Bread and New American Stone Mill. Both of these companies struggled to find a suppy of Vermont grain. Those initial connections really sparked Shawn’s and Sarah’s interest in milling grain for baked goods and made them realize that NEK Grains could help meet the demand for locally processed grain filling gaps in local supply.

As regular newsletter readers know, the evolution of a farm never stops. Shawn and Sarah are expanding their farm store at the family farm. They are building their own mill, so they can mill their wheat into flour themselves, and then sell it at the store and online. In addition to the store, they are working on a transition plan to officially purchase the farm from Shawn’s family. They will also continue raising heifers on the farm to ground the farm in its tradition while also growing grain, milling it, and running a farm store.

Shawn is dedicated to sustainable practices while managing the many challenges he encounters. He described that there is either always something that wants to eat the grain or take over the soil that the grain is growing on. Gingue Family Farm uses crop rotation–growing wheat for a year then alternating with cover crops to build soil health. They also harvest the crop at the peak when the grain is ready to get the best quality grain.

One of the things Sarah appreciates most about running the farm is they get to do it as a family. While their four children may not love every minute of the process, Sarah loves showing her kids how the farm functions and that you can always make things work. Farming often gets a bad rep, and Sarah is able to show her family a different side to it.

Shawn loves that he gets to see his product throughout the entire process. When he was a dairy farmer, they milked the cows but then sent it out for processing and never saw the product again. Now with NEK Grains, they source the seed, grow it, mill it, and then can actually see the flour get used. They are able to eat the pasta or muffins that came from their plant. He loves the connection from the beginning of the crop to the very end.

Sarah’s favorite flavor of ice cream is chocolate, while Shawn favors cookies ‘n cream. We think they deserve lots of delicious ice cream after growing and milling so much Vermont grain! In addition to shipping ice cream as gifts this season, the Sisters recommend filling your gift list with other VT farm products such as milled flour from NEK Grains!

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