BY STEVEN JUPITER
BRANDON—Few local businesses have generated the devout loyalty that Wood’s Market has enjoyed over the 100+ years of its various incarnations. From its earliest days as a lakeside retreat with cabins and a small vegetable stand to its more recent iteration as a large-scale farm operation specializing in flowers and organic vegetables, Wood’s Market has been a beloved fixture in the Brandon community.
The Wood family had owned the surrounding land for generations when Bob and Sally Wood opened the first roadside vegetable stand there in the 1970s. Bob Wood had a long career representing Brandon in Montpelier and by the late 1990s, he was open to passing the farm to the next generation. None of his children wanted to take on the operation, but in 2000 he found an eager buyer in Jonathan Satz, a farmer living in Massachusetts who dreamed of running an organic farm of his own and who had become familiar with the Wood property during his rounds as an organic-farm inspector in Vermont.
“We were still working the land, but Bob was ready,” said Sally Wood. “He must’ve really liked Jon because he let him move his equipment in even before the papers were signed.”
With Bob’s advice and support, Satz got the farm going in his own direction and developed a fierce local following for his flowers and organic produce. Every spring, local gardeners descended upon the farm to snap up the high-quality vegetable starts, hoping to get them into the ground at just the right time to exploit the relatively short growing season here in Vermont. If you didn’t hustle down to Wood’s on Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the growing season, there was a good chance they’d be sold out of what you wanted by the time you made it over there.
In 2006, Jon met Courtney Poremski, a graphic designer who’d grown up in Brandon but had moved away—they were introduced by Courtney’s mother. By 2008, Jon and Courtney were married. They ran the farm together for 15 years, had two sons—Ezra, now 12, and Emmet, now 9—cementing themselves and the farm at the center of Brandon’s summer season.
“Jon was constantly thinking about how to change things for the better,” said Courtney. “He ran the farm with integrity.”
Everything changed in 2021 when Jon passed away unexpectedly from cancer at the age of 56, leaving a devastated Courtney to figure out what to do with the farm that Jon had poured his heart and soul into for 22 years.
“Jon ran the ship,” Courtney said. “He was the brains of the operation. I learned a lot about farming over the years, but I was definitely not the farmer. It wouldn’t have been the same without Jon. And I didn’t want to have a floundering business.”
People offered to step in and help keep the place going. Many people expressed interest in buying the farm but turned out to be less than serious.
“’Tire kickers,’ that’s what you’d call them,” said Sally Wood. “They just wanted to come in and nose around.”
Then came Dan and Elyse Wulfkuhle (pronounced “wolf-cool”).
In spring of 2022, one of Jon’s best friends told Courtney about a young couple originally from Massachusetts who were living out in Washington state and dreaming of running their own organic farm. Would she be willing to talk with them?
Their first Zoom call was in April of last year. Now Dan and Elyse are living in the house where Bob & Sally and Jon & Courtney had lived and raised kids before them. And they’re ready to give the farm their all.
“This is definitely Dan’s dream,” said Elyse, who worked in resource management—specifically water quality—for the Quineault tribe in Washington.
“We wanted to be in a position to be givers in the community,” said Dan, who has degrees in Plant, Soil, and Insect Science, precisely the sort of background you might expect from someone determined to farm organically.
Dan and Elyse have two young children: Clara, age 3, and Theo, age 1. They’re outdoorsy folk, love to hike, swim, and camp. In other words, they seem ready-made for life in Vermont. In fact, Brandon’s proximity to nature was one of the selling points for Elyse.
“Vermont seemed like a wholesome place to raise our children,” she said.
When (jokingly) asked if they understand the big shoes they have to fill, they both laugh.
“We plan to emulate what the farm has been in the past,” Dan says. “We know what the market has meant to people here. We’ll have the same plants and vegetables. Strawberries are a 2-year crop, so this year we won’t have them ready for the June harvest, but we should have some in August.”
Dan and Elyse plan on continuing to offer customers CSA (“Community Supported Agriculture”) options, which is essentially a pre-buy program. For a fixed amount of money up front, you’re guaranteed a certain allotment of produce throughout the season. For the summer season, the CSA will be a gift card that will allow customers to purchase a set amount of whatever they choose from the farm stand. In the fall, when the harvest is more limited, the Wulfkuhles will pre-package a selection of fall produce for CSA members. Anyone interested in the program can join on their website: woodsmarketgarden.com.
As we draw closer to spring, Dan and Elyse will have their capable hands full getting the farm ready for their planned opening on Saturday, May 6.
“I’m super excited to see the farm change and how Dan and Elyse make it their own,” said Courtney. “In all of the decisions that had to be made for the sale, I was consumed with making Jon proud. I think I have.”