It was 1999.
My mother, Lois, now the owner of West Meadow Farm Bakery, had 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 the medical community thought, and that it was hereditary. He was willing, free of charge, to test every 1st- and 2nd-degree relative of someone with Celiac Disease. My sister, my grandmother, and I all got tested.
At the time, I was a Sophomore in high school. My grades were slipping and my stomach constantly ached. It got to the point that I was in so much pain, I felt as though I couldn’t even stand up. I never told anyone, so I secretly hoped this test was going to be the answer to my problems.
The results came back.
My test was positive.
My grandmother’s test was positive.
My sister’s was negative (however she has since tested positive).
The blood test was just the start of determining the diagnosis. My grandmother was 82, so she decided not to test further. I did test further and needed an endoscopy. Lois’s doctor, Dr, M., believed from his research that Celiac Disease affects approximately 1 in 5000 people. 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 an 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.
Like any loving mother, Lois set to work to make food that I would like, and even 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 our home. She offered limited selections to local natural food markets: City Market, Healthy Living, and Hunger Mountain.
In 2009, Lois moved the operation 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 replaced traditional wheat flour cup-for-cup.
When I moved back to Vermont in 2010 from New Hampshire, I started working with my mom to help her out. Now we’re business partners.
Together we have grown West Meadow Farm Bakery to where it is today. We’ve expanded the number of stores we serve and have picked up accounts with restaurants, hospitals, and colleges in the area. In 2011, we worked closely with American Flatbread, Burlington Hearth to develop a flatbread pizza crust that they are proud to serve.
We made our biggest move in March 2019 to where we are now: 4 Carmichael St, Essex Junction VT. We continue to grow and serve the Celiac and gluten-free population of Vermont. Our goal has always been to serve our customers and with our new space, we’ll expand our dreams of what is possible
For instance, who hasn't dreamed of going to a cafe and having a cup of coffee with a pastry free from the fear of gluten contamination? Bring your friends, sit in our new retail space, and enjoy a gluten-free bagel, muffin, or scone. Heck, bring your gluten-loving friends along—they won't even notice the difference!
Your support over the years means the world to us, and we thank you from the bottom of our ovens for your patronage and ongoing support. We will continue to strive and give you the best gluten-free products and experience possible!
Yours in baking,
Sarah and The West Meadow Farm Team