Hidden just a few minutes walk from the center of historic Woodstock, Vermont, lies one of rural Vermont’s best-kept secrets. Leaving the town, with its covered bridges and bustling shops, and crossing over the meandering Ottauquechee River, you’d never guess that you’re in the presence of one of Vermont’s oldest and most influential properties.
Billings Farm & Museum is an education center, museum, and working dairy farm that can trace its history back more than 145 years. Once owned by some of New England’s most powerful and influential families, including the Rockefellers and Billings’, the farm is now a beloved destination for tourists and locals alike, providing an amazing window into the history and rural culture of the Green Mountain State, and teaching people about the importance of knowing where their food comes from. There are literally hundreds of reasons why you should visit Billings Farm, but here are just a few of our favorite:
1) Great scenery
With huge vistas of open fields, rolling hills, and thick pine forests, this is certainly one of the prettiest places in Vermont, and a great way to see what the state must have been like in the early 1800s.
2) Four seasons of fun
Billings Farm & Museum is great to visit year-round. Newborn lambs and calves arrive in spring, while summer offers great weather and Vermont-made ice cream. Fall brings stunning views of the foliage changing color, and during the winter there are traditional Christmas activities and horse drawn sleigh-rides.
3) Jersey milking herd
The Billings Jersey herd is the oldest registered Jersey herd in the United States. Its 70+ cows, including newborn calves, are world-famous for their genetics, and many have appeared in shows around the country. Even though these are very special animals, visitors are still more than welcome to come and meet them up close.
4) Milking time
The Billings cows are milked twice a day, and while you probably wouldn’t want to get up at 4:00 for the first milking, the second milking at 3:30 P.M. is open to the public. There’s no better way to see where your milk comes from, and the folks at the farm are more than happy to explain what’s going on and answer any questions.
5) Fresh cheese
After you’ve seen the cows being milked, you’re welcome to head over to the gift shop and try samples of some of that milk in the form of award-winning Billings Farm cheddar. Flavorful and perfect in everything from mac and cheese to fondue, it's great for anyone looking for a quick snack or a treat to bring home.
6) The flock of Southdown sheep
One of the most durable and sought-after breeds of sheep, Southdown’s are a well-established, duel-purpose breed. Cute and inquisitive, they’re great to watch, and if you’re very lucky, you might even see the newborn lambs running around in their homemade sweaters.
7) Draft horses
Billings Farm has three teams of working draft horses, huge and powerful animals (each weighing around 1800 to 2000 pounds) that would have been traditionally used for much of the farm’s heavy labor. Nowadays they enjoy a pretty cushy life however, and you’re more likely to see Tom and Jerry, Lynn and Sue, or Jim and Joe grazing in the field rather than pulling a plow, although they’re always ready to help during wagon rides.
8) The 1890 Farmhouse and Museum
Aside from being a working farm, Billings is also a history museum and education center. Visitors are welcome to explore the beautifully restored 1890 farmhouse and see the creamery where butter was produced, the farm office, and living space for the farm manager and his family. In the museum, discover the cycle of farm work, beginning with preparing the land, haying, harvesting, apple cider making and ice harvesting.
9) It’s right across the road from Vermont’s only National Park
The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park was once one of the grandest estates in New England, and boasts a stunning historic mansion and more than 500 acres of forest, parkland, and scenic hiking trails. Visitors can take guided tours around the mansion to see the priceless paintings and learn about the history of the families that lived there.
10) Baby Animal Day
The farm’s biggest event happens every year on Easter Saturday, when visitors come from all over New England to meet the newest arrivals. It’s a great chance to ooh and aah at the cute baby animals, enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride, and discover the wonderful world of farming.