April 3, 2018
Vermont Business Magazine
Fat Toad Farm, a small business located in Brookfield, has been named the 2018 Vermont Family-Owned Business of the Year. Husband and wife team, Steve Reid and Judith Irving and their daughter Calley Hastings have owned and operated Fat Toad Farm for 10 years. Throughout most of this time, Christine Porcaro, their “almost daughter,” has also been a critical member of this family team.
Fat Toad Farm specializes in producing a variety of caramel sauces made from local goat’s milk. The family is being recognized by the US Small Business Administration for employment growth, financial success, expansion and community involvement.
“When I found out we had won, it was a moment of affirmation. Right now we’re at that next stage of growth and it shows we’re heading in the right direction,” said Irving.
When it started in 2008, Fat Toad Farm was a small operation. The family was using milk from their own goat-dairy to produce the caramel sauce in their farmhouse kitchen. Over the next few years the business grew steadily, but in 2015 sales began to spike and the owners knew they needed to expand.
In late 2015, Fat Toad Farm sold their goats to Ayer’s Brook Goat Dairy in Randolph and then partnered with Vermont Creamery to source a year-round supply of fresh local goat's milk to meet consumers demand. By the close of 2017, sales had increased by 70 percent from 2015 and the company has been experiencing strong growth since.
“Purchasing goat's milk from Vermont Creamery on a year-round basis has allowed us to focus solely on the production, sales and distribution of goat's milk caramel. Purchasing milk has reduced our milk costs by half. With that, we have increased our year-round staffing and expanded in marketing, sales and production,” said Irving.
Fat Toad Farm has long ties to the SBA. Throughout the years the owners have received assistance from the Vermont Small Business Development Center, an organization funded by the SBA that provides counseling to Vermonters looking to start or grow their business.
In April, Hastings begins a seven-month executive course for growing businesses hosted by the SBA. Emerging Leaders is a free program that connects small business owners with a network of industry experts and assists with the creation of a three-year strategic growth plan.
“Each year we have a competitive field for both our awards and Emerging Leaders,” said Darcy Carter, SBA Vermont District Director. “For Fat Toad Farm to be selected as both a winner and for the upcoming class says a lot about the growth they are experiencing.”
Fat Toad Farm will be presented its award during the 2018 Vermont Small Business Awards Ceremony cohosted by Vermont Business Magazine in June. The ceremony is open to the public and registration will be available in May.
“How lucky am I? Before this I left my house at 7 a.m. and came home at 5 p.m. Now I sit at my desk in my house and get to enjoy my home and my family. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. I get to work with my daughter and my husband every day,” said Irving.
The 2018 Vermont Small Business Awards Ceremony will include the presentation to Fat Toad Farm and all the category winners, including Sascha Mayer and Christine Dodson of Mamava, who will be honored as the Vermont Small Business Persons of the Year; the event is cohosted by Vermont Business Magazine in June. The ceremony is open to the public and registration will be available in May.