Jacob “Jake” Goldstein, left, and Alejandro “Ale” Bergad founded Sunsoil. Photo by Randolph T. Holhut.
by Joyce Marcel, Vermont Business Magazine In 1848, during the first American gold rush, random people became obscenely rich, others died violent deaths or were left begging by the side of the road and more than 750,000 pounds of gold were taken from the California hills. Somehow, this has become a good metaphor for what’s happening with hemp in 2019.
The Cannabis sativa plant — from which comes hemp and marijuana — has been around forever; there’s a reason it’s nicknamed “weed.” The Chinese used it 1,000 years ago. They cultivated some for textiles, some for its curative properties and some for its euphoric ones.
In recent decades, the plant — or maybe euphoria itself — has been illegal in America. Things started to change on February 7, 2014, when President Barack Obama made hemp production legal by signing the Farm Bill of 2013; it opened a wild new field (ahem) of economic enterprise.
Besides being similar to 1848, it was also similar to the gold rush of 2012, when Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. In June of this year, Colorado’s marijuana revenue topped $1 billion. The bonanza has not gone unnoticed.
By 2014, entrepreneurs were happily exploring the potential of hemp. Then, in December 2018, the National Farm Bill made hemp production legal for all states that have hemp programs; it opened up the floodgates. Hemp became the new gold rush.
Into this wild west industry have ridden two childhood friends, Alejandro “Ale” Bergad, 45, and Jacob “Jake” Goldstein, 34, who are busy turning hemp into Northeast Kingdom gold.
The partners founded a hemp company called Green Mountain CBD in Hardwick in 2015. Last year their company, renamed Sunsoil, hit $6 million in revenue. This year they doubled their acreage and attracted a partner who is putting $7 million of investment capital into Sunsoil’s long-term growth.
“The anti-hemp laws seemed like just an obvious wrong to the plant itself,” Goldstein said. “When we had the opportunity to get involved in this industry, in Vermont, which is such a great place to farm and where the economy really needs a stimulus, it was a no-brainer.”
Bergad and Goldstein have enjoyed helping to create an industry from scratch.
“Jake and I have built this company by solving 12,000 problems,” Bergad said. “That’s really what we do. We’re just problem-solvers who can wear the hat of farmer or business executive if need be in order to really democratize this process. We’re willing to do whatever it takes.”
It is interesting to note that Bergad and Goldstein are not farming hemp for its fibers — to make rope, paper or clothing. This is a gold rush sparked by one of hemp’s chemical compounds: CBD. (It’s worth noting that Cannabis sativa has over 80 chemicals; only one, THC, is euphoric.)
If you’ve lived in a world without CBDs and are now finding them in everything from your beer to your cat’s food, that’s exactly what has happened.
CBD oil is being touted as a cure for chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety and pain relief. It can possibly help relieve cancer pain and reduce chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting. It may reduce acne. It might offer help with neurological disorders like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. It might also protect against tumors, lessen psychotic symptoms in people with schizophrenia and prevent diabetes. Or it might not. Studies are ongoing.
According to New Frontier Data, a technology company focused on the cannabis industry, the forecast is that we will see maybe $1.8 billion in US hemp sales this year, and as much as $5 billion is projected for 2022.
Vermont is not exempt from this gold rush. Here, where medical marijuana is allowed for only a limited variety of illnesses, buying recreational marijuana is still illegal, the growing season is short and winters are hard.
In 2018, 461 registrations were received according to the state’s Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. This included both hemp growers and hemp processors.
This year, the state issued 971 grower registrations and 272 processor registrations. Over 9,000 acres of hemp were grown in Vermont in 2019.
Vermont’s hemp industry will only grow, said Cary Giguere, the director of public health and agricultural resource management for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.
“It’s not a fad,” Giguere said. “I don’t think we’ll see the use of therapeutic cannabis decrease. And there are cannabinoids other than THC that are catching on. The market for CBD or other therapeutic cannabinoids is growing by leaps and bounds every day. It’s largely because the Baby Boomer generation is choosing CBD over other anti-inflammatories, something more natural than pharmaceuticals. We’ve got over a thousand people registered to grow or process hemp in Vermont at all levels. It’s a multi-million dollar industry.”
The rush to plant hemp has produced casualties as well as success stories. Because of its recent illegality, few people have enough experience growing hemp as a cash crop, especially in New England weather.
Some farmers planted without first securing a contract with a company that could distill the CBD out of the dried plant; when it came time to sell, they found extractors already had all the hemp they needed. And with so much excess plant around, prices can get depressed.
Photo: Harvesting hemp at Sunsoil's Hyde Park farm. Photo by Randolph T. Holhut.
“The folks who were prepared had contracts with processors are doing just fine,” Giguere said. “The guys who planted without finding a processor will have to wait a little while, because our processors are increasing their capacity. The idea that everybody’s going to get rich off hemp caused a lot of people to throw some seeds in the ground. But it takes a couple of years to have success. The glut stories are about people who just grew the crop without a trajectory for bringing it to market. You don’t have dairy farmers start milking cows without having a contract with a cooperative. People who jumped in assumed somebody would show up and buy their crop. But the processors who bring CBD products to market had contracts, and they’re working on next year’s contracts. And these products are taking off because they do have effects.”
Also, moving into this brave new world comes with unexpected hardships. Just last month, for example, New York City police were bragging about the seizure of 106 pounds of bagged “marijuana” which turned out to be hemp from a Vermont farm.
The pictures of cops proudly standing amidst all this “contraband” brought giggles to a lot of people who are more comfortable with the plant than police will ever be.
When Bergad and Goldstein talk about “democratizing” CBD products, they mean providing a top-of-the-line CBD oil at affordable prices.
“We like to be very clear about our ingredients because they’re simple and what people are paying for,” Bergad said. “Our products are priced out at that price-per-milligram. Currently, our retail price is at 5 cents a milligram. But we’re going to be able to improve on that.”
Bergad and Goldstein started Sunsoil with their own capital and are the company’s majority shareholders. Bergad is CEO of the company; Goldstein is the vice-president. Both are also board members.
“It’s many hats worn, and continue to be worn, here,” Goldstein said.
The company is in the process of becoming a B Corporation.
Currently it employs 35 people, providing them with enviable benefits like health insurance, 401Ks and stock options. During harvest time it puts on an additional 120 or more helpers. Part-timers start at $20 per hour and almost all of them come from the surrounding farms and towns.
Sunsoil began with five acres; this year it farmed 100 acres, renting some of that land from High Mountain Mowing. Next year, it plans to double production.
Sunsoil is certified organic for growing and processing.
“We’re really reaching the highest level of measurable quality standards for any company in any sector,” Bergad said. “And that’s been great. We’re really proud of that.”
The two men split the work, keeping in touch by phone, text and email when they are out in the field and brainstorming whenever they are together.
“Our disagreements are so minuscule,” Bergad said. “We always let truth guide. That’s just good problem-solving. We’re still climbing a mountain here. We don’t take our hands off the till to high-five each other.”
Sunsoil is a “vertically integrated” or seed-to-shelf company; it creates its own seeds, plants them, grows them, harvests and dries the hemp, extracts the CBD, turns the resulting high-quality oil into a variety of ingestible products, and markets them. By doing everything itself, the company maintains total control over quality.
“Our CBD oil is extracted from the hemp we grow using organic coconut oil,” Goldstein said. “We send this oil to a third-party lab to be tested. After adjusting the concentration, we send the oil back to get tested again. Once the concentration and quality have been confirmed, our pharmaceutical-grade robots fill products to an exact volume.”
Sunsoil products include gel caps, unflavored oils, cinnamon-flavored CBD oil, chocolate mint-flavored CBD oil and citrus-flavored CBD oil. Sales growth has been exponential; the number of retail stores carrying Sunsoil products today is five times larger than it was last year.
“We started in 250 stores and we’re probably going to finish the year in around 1,600 stores,” Goldstein said. “When we speak with the more educated consumers and retailers, the ones who have sort of gotten up the curve and past the newness of CBD, they realize we have a very differentiated product. That’s why we’re gaining such traction there.”
Right now, Sunsoil’s products are distributed in 1,200 stores across the country. You can find them, for example, in the Vitamin Shoppe, Earthfare, Lucky’s Markets, and Fresh Thyme retail locations.
In 2018, Sunsoil attracted a $7 million investment from “impact investor and advisor” One Better Ventures, which prides itself on investing in progressive companies like Burt’s Bees (was once in Vermont), Leesa mattresses, and Seventh Generation (is in Vermont).
The funding will be used to increase production capacity, expand distribution and accelerate growth by making the products more accessible.
The new investors received a minority stake in the company, which rebranded itself as Sunsoil in early 2019.
Jim Geikie, an OBV partner, says his company “believes in the power of plants and plant wisdom.”
OBV was looking to get into the hemp business when it found Bergad and Goldstein.
“We always attend the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim,” Geikie said. “In 2017, there were just a few vendors. Then, in 2018, there must have been 50. We knew that CBD had potential to relieve people who had anxiety or pain or mental disorders. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about this, and I recently watched a webinar that provided 90 pieces of available research. We believe this needs to be proven out, but right now there seems to be something for everybody. The pharmaceutical companies will go after the more complex cures. But there is a middle ground for things like stress management. We’d like to see CBD and hemp products as suitable treatments. So that’s why we got interested in this.”
OBV looked at quite a few companies, but it fell in love with Sunsoil early on.
“Their vision of the business, what they’re trying to create, is the highest quality, lowest price product on the market,” Geikie said. “They want to make it as accessible as Advil. That’s usually a recipe for success in consumer products.”
This is as much a bet on people as a brand, Geikie said.
“We were impressed with the resourcefulness and conscientiousness and a thirst for learning that Jake and Alejandro had that we hadn’t seen before,” he said. “What impressed us was their integrity. Everything from the land they choose, the treatment of the workers, the hybrids they’re working with, and their general disposition — they’re trying to transcend the hype and give great products to people. We’re finding a lot of wildcatters and gold rushers in this industry. CBD oil is in everything and for everybody and people are trying to make a profit off this. But Jake and Alejandro are trying to do it the right way and build for the future.”
Two things stood out about Bergad and Goldstein.
“It’s the progress they’ve made with their team, and the land they use,” Geikie said. “The camaraderie and hard work and organization of that group. They do everything from the growing, expanding acreage, all the infrastructures. The wells they’ve had to dig, building the drying barn and the greenhouses. Getting through the organic certification process. And on top of the whole thing, they’ve put a really rigorous quality on top. It’s been really great to watch these two guys lead this team over the past year.”
Bergad and Goldstein have known each other since childhood; they grew up in Skyview Acres, a 115-acre wooded “cooperative community” founded in 1946 in Rockland County, New York.
Skyview is still going strong today and Bergad and Goldstein’s parents still live there. On its webpage, Skyview touts its spirit of “open-mindedness cooperation and volunteerism.”
From the start it’s been a progressive place with progressive values. For example, it was one of the first suburban communities in the United States to welcome members of racial minorities. Martin Luther King’s attorney had a house there, Bergad and Goldstein remember.
“It was founded by a bunch of folks, mostly from New York City,” Goldstein said. “It was musicians, activists from the civil rights era and professors. It was kind of a diverse group. It had a lot of energy from the Sixties in it. We both grew up with a lot of shared values coming from that community. We both had a lot of exposure to different walks of life. We had a baseball field or soccer field and we had a community pond that was chlorinated, so there were a lot of things that would bring us together.”
Trying to make the world a better place is one of Skyview’s values. Another is a healthy skepticism about corporations.
“We think companies have a responsibility to do well for their communities and fit into the ecosystem a lot better than they have been doing,” Bergad said. “I remember an early doctrine was about using co-ops for food. We weren’t growing our own food or anything, but a lot of folks do share what they grow there. Also community values. Knowing your neighbors. Everyone’s almost like an extended family.”
Bergad’s parents are both professors. Goldstein’s mother is a social worker and a lifelong activist. His father is a surgical pathologist.
Even though the men came from different generations, they grew up together.
“We went to the same high school,” Bergad said. “It was a very incorporated community, with folks interacting from all ages as well as all backgrounds. The point was to live a fruitful, happy life.”
It is not surprising that the men grew up familiar with the cannabis plant.
“We had exposure,” Bergad said. “It’s a generational thing. And it was the times. The first Woodstock concert [in 1969] happened when our community was at its peak, with over 100 kids between the 45 homes. People were camping in the woods there because there were just so many folks who grew up there, and it was such a beautiful spot.”
Skyview is also where they met entrepreneur/investor Brian Korb, who is now the president of the Sunsoil board. Korb co-founded an online employment recruiting firm in the late 1990s; he was one of the first to take job hunting online. He grew his business internationally before selling it; now he is raising a family and investing in other small companies.
“We all grew up together,” Korb said. “My family lived two miles from Skyview. Ale always was pretty enthusiastic about this industry, and how it was going to make a big impact. He was always giving me a 100-year history about marijuana and hemp. I was initially a skeptic. It sounded shady. But when I got initiated, I could see it was a real and evolving industry. So no spin. It was real. Ale’s approach has always been that way: it’s a real thing that has benefits. So I said I wanted to be involved.”
After High School
The two friends took different paths after high school.
Bergad went to a small college in West Virginia for a few seasons, but his heart wasn’t in it. Instead, he started a landscaping business.
“It was the first time I was really gainfully employed, and it was all my own merit,” Bergad said. “It’s amazing what you can do if you work long days and have a lawnmower. It was a good experience. And it was great to see that there’s opportunity out there for the ambitious.”
Goldstein graduated from the University of Vermont.
“During my years at UVM, I started a window cleaning and painting company with a friend who I also grew up with,” Goldstein said. “That lasted for six years. But Sunsoil is the best thing I’ve done so far.”
By 2014, Bergad was learning the cannabis business in Colorado.
“I was with a company and saw the inception of the hemp industry there,” Bergad said. “I got to see what a lot of folks were doing on the ground floor. I saw a lot of inefficiencies in the agricultural and extracting practices and the business practices. I think lots of folks who went into this industry early were awesome pioneers who really pushed barriers. But I don’t think the practices were as efficient as they could be, and they were keeping prices high rather than really driving prices lower and sort of democratizing this.”
Those inefficient practices were really farming and extraction techniques developed for the marijuana industry.
“It’s a boutique industry, where people are spending a lot,” Goldstein said. “But it’s discretionary. We see CBD as more utilitarian. We’re able to do what we think is an amazing product with a much more efficient system.”
Undiscouraged, Bergad became hooked on the possibilities of hemp.
“I saw how powerful and impactful it was in people’s lives,” Bergad said. “It was an easy choice to come back to Vermont and start our own company with the thought of creating better business practices, better farming practices and better extraction practices. I thought it would lead to the democratization of a product that could potentially be very helpful to people.”
Soon Bergad was fishing around for a partner. A friend from Skyview told him that Goldstein was also looking for a new project.
“It had probably been five years since we spoke directly, but our home community keeps close contact with everyone,” Bergad said. “We always know, more or less, what other people are up to. Having grown up with Jake and his family, we already had implicit trust. It was quickly clear we were going to go into business together. Having lived in the area before, the Northeast Kingdom was a clear choice. The cost of land was reasonable, the soil was rich and the water is clean and plentiful. I also knew this community had history of farming and talented, hard workers. ”
In the year or so leading up to the start of Sunsoil, Goldstein had undergone a major shoulder surgery, sold his apartment in Burlington and closed the window cleaning company.
‘Sunsoil offered everything I could ask for and more,” Goldstein said. “We both understood the opportunity our company — and the industry as a whole —has to make an economic impact on Vermont’s rural economy. Vermont was hungry for new industries and well-paying jobs.”
Bergad was the ideal partner, Goldstein said.
“It was easy to choose to work with Alejandro because he brings vision, passion, and energy that are ideal in any business partner, along with a wealth of industry insight and farming experience,” Goldstein said. “We both value logic, seek truth through data and science and willingly question both the status quo and our own assumptions. Equally important is a mutual trust built upon a set of shared values that I would largely attribute to our growing up in Skyview Acres. When a mutual friend of ours in Skyview put us in touch, I knew during the first phone call that Alejandro was someone I would enjoy working with. It was just incredibly easy for us to connect and build a shared vision of what this company could become.”
The partners try to avoid the hype that surrounds their industry.
“We don’t make claims and we don’t speak ahead of the science,” Bergad said. “We’re really good farmers and we’re really good at processing. We’re really excited for all the talented minds and the research that’s being done currently, and for the data to come out. We really feel the data is going to back up the anecdotal evidence about CBD.”
Seed To Shelf
Bergad and Goldstein are growing certified organic hemp. They begin with their own seeds — they started with hybrids Bergad had developed in Colorado and brought with him to Vermont.
After the harvest, plants are hung upside down in drying barns. When the time is right, Sunsoil has a proprietary method for extracting the CBDs: It heats the hemp with organic coconut oil and water; the CBD molecules cling to the oil.
“If you could think about how folks used to cook marijuana butter,” Bergad said. “They did it on top of the stove, and they used butter to extract the THC. That’s essentially what we’re doing with coconut oil, but with rooms full of giant pieces of equipment.”
After this process, the product is tested for the first time. Next, a press is used to extract the CDB-enriched oil.
“We’re very different than other CBD companies on the national level,” Goldstein said. “We don’t use CO2. We don’t use alcohol. We don’t use harsh solvents. We just use organic coconut oil to extract CBD from our plants. That makes for a two-ingredient or three-ingredient product, which has huge efficiency savings. We can turn those into cost savings for consumers. This has driven our national expansion.”
Their largest problem became figuring out how to scale up the process.
“Our first year, thinking of scale, we were using cheese cloth and squeezing it out,” Goldstein said. “Then we got a cider press. We were pressing a few pounds out at a time. Now we’re using hydraulic presses and large scale cookers, but it’s the same process. We’ve just worked it up. We’re the only folks in the world that I know of who have scaled this process.”
The CBD oil then goes through a second round of testing. From there, products are created and finally, marketed.
Bergad and Goldstein stress the importance of being specific about the amount of CBD each Sunsoil product contains.
“We really like our pricing per milligram,” Bergad said. “With a lot of these creams and oils, they don’t have concentrations or a measurable serving size. When you’re putting on a cream, you don’t know how much CBD you’re taking. To me, that just feels sloppy. We think about it in terms of the understanding and control that people want.”
“When we do sell our CBD oil — just the coconut oil in a jar — some folks will apply it topically, like a cream,” Goldstein said. “But they know exactly how strong that is. They can cook with it if they want.”
“We send it with a scooper, so it’s always a measurable serving size,” Bergad said. “So our customers always know how much CBD they’re taking.”
Starting A Start-Up
Cannabis is still illegal on the federal level as a Schedule 1 drug, which means that federally regulated banks cannot touch cannabis money, even in the two-thirds of the country where it is legal at the state level.
Otherwise, banks risk criminal prosecution for money laundering and “aiding and abetting” a federal crime. This has led to horror stories about growers losing millions of cash in house fires, among other things.
Hemp being legal, however, means that Sunsoil has a good relationship with Union Bank.
“Union Bank has been very accommodating,” Bergad said. “It has been a true banking partner. They took us very seriously and worked with us to help us grow this business.”
Goldstein and Bergad financed their start-up themselves. Bergad initially put in upwards of $100,000. Goldstein came in with about another $100,000.
One of the first things the partners did with their seed (ahem again) money was to finance buying a farm in Hardwick.
“We had enough capital to build our greenhouses and to build our drying barns, but we financed the land,” Bergad said. “That first winter, it was difficult getting into the house in time to grow our seed crop. I had to make a push to let the owner rent to us. She was very uncomfortable renting to us before we closed on the property, but we needed space for our seed crop. So we ended up paying like a little exorbitantly on rent for a couple months and then we closed.”
“We closed on January 11th, 2016,” Goldstein said. “We sprouted our seeds in the winter of 2016. We had the seeds ready just in time to do our five acres. We sold some seeds to get a little bit of capital that summer. We rolled our products out slowly. We built our website. We didn’t advertise at all, but word of mouth started spreading. We’ve heard from thousands of people on how they use CBD. We’ve taken customer feedback and launched new products. We’ve been active online, on social media, sharing and trying to bring people into our process.”
It was rough work in the beginning.
“Jake and I put up the greenhouse, driving the stakes through frozen ground,” Bergad said. “And then our friend Dylan gave us some help. He’s still an employee and just an overall Swiss army knife of a guy. We milled our wood for all our tables in the greenhouse. The first year, we planted everything ourselves. It was hands and knees, hands and dirt, and just crawling along. We got in something like 9,000 plants, or close to that, on our five acres. We had an awesome season and we started making oil.”
From the first, Sunsoil was successful.
“We started making money in 2017,” Bergad said. “We had almost $2 million in revenue. That was our first year of sales, because it was our 2016 crop. The rewards on this sort of emerging market stuff are pretty high and inflated through efficiencies. The following year we did over three times that in terms of our growth.”
“At the time we launched, I think we were the only company doing what we’re doing,” Goldstein said. “We launched at 5 cents a milligram, and people were selling it at 15.”
“We did launch at the best price in the country, by far, and we put pressure on the market,” Bergad said. “Now people have started to catch up, but I still don’t think they’re offering the same value.”
This year, market research firms have awarded third place in national market share to Sunsoil — against much bigger and more well-financed companies. Sunsoil products are figuratively flying off the shelves.
“Vermont and our brand have been very well received,” Bergad said. “And there’s a lot of competition. You’re looking at a multi-billion dollar market. But it’s not us that are successful, it’s our products. First and foremost, it’s the quality of our product.”
Farming In Vermont
With Vermont’s short growing season, timing is everything. There are other places in the country with fertile land, good roads and lots of sunshine. Bergad and Goldstein deliberately chose Vermont.
“We love it here,” Bergad said. “First of all, this place is gorgeous. I’ve had the opportunity to farm in lots of places, and there are things I enjoy about all of them. But the resources are here, whether it’s the community rich with agricultural experience, which we can draw on for help, or the water, or the soil. It’s true that conditions are difficult, but it’s worth the fight. We start early and we sort of front load our resources by heating our greenhouses and giving these plants a real head start. It was 32 degrees last night and our plants are fine. They’re tough. They’re well established. We’ve bred something that is durable and can handle this climate.”
Being in Vermont is a dream for Bergad and Goldstein.
“We’re able to farm in this area that we both love,” Bergad said. “We both want it to be our home. We’re making a huge impact in the economy, or at least we feel we are. We really have the potential to continue to do so. That means paying everybody a livable wage — period! Whether you start part-time or full-time, you start at $20 an hour. Our full-time employees have insurance, 401K, and options. You know, they’re owners of the company.”
Photo: Drying barn, where workers strip the leaves off the hemp plants for processing. Photo by Randolph T. Holhut
Still young and in the first flush of start-up success, it’s hard for Bergad and Goldstein to focus on their long-term futures. They plan to keep doing what they’re doing, expanding their company, their product line and their acreage as they go.
“There’s a constant pressure in this world to create new products,” Goldstein said. “We’d love to do so. We always talk about democratizing, or adding products that fit our vision. Our ambition is to stay around. We understand there’s a life cycle, but we think the potential is there. The market is immature, but it will ultimately decide.”
Sunsoil belongs to One Percent for the Planet, an international organization whose member businesses donate one percent of their annual sales to benefit environmental organizations.
“We’re very socially conscious,” Bergad said. “We’re factoring in programs where we can add and give back to the community in a substantial and significant way. We want to make an impact. You know, we’re not going through motions here.”
The new investment money from One Better Ventures will be helpful, but Bergad and Goldstein really didn’t need it.
“Jake and I made a decision to raise capital,” Bergad said. “Not because we needed money. But if we wanted to expand in a significant way, which would lower the price and increase that accessibility, that was our goal when taking that capital.”
“And it put us on the national map,” Goldstein added. “It felt like we had to do it soon. We needed to grow quickly.”
OBV took a small share of the company when it invested; it’s not looking for a quick return.
“We’re patient investment partners,” OBV partner Geikie said. “We’re looking to build this for the long term, and we’re prepared to put more money in if the business needs it.”
Bergad and Goldstein believe that eventually — and sooner rather than later — cannabis laws will change on the national level.
“We think common sense and people will eventually dictate the laws,” Bergad said.
Because the players are making it up as they go along, hemp is still a fluid industry. The laws, the industry, the research and the products will all be changing in the coming years. But getting Sunsoil products into the market so people can use them to get and stay healthy is still Bergad and Goldstein’s first and foremost goal.
“Even when we were holding our breaths and building new Websites and trying to find new ways to process at 2 am in the morning, we managed to always serve the people,” Goldstein said. “And even when we went down, we would just ship them free product because we don’t want people to not have their CBD.”
Joyce Marcel is a journalist in southern Vermont. In 2017 she was named the best business magazine profile writer in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publications. She is married to Randy Holhut, the photographer who took the photos for this story. He is also the news editor/acting operations manager of The Commons, a weekly newspaper in Brattleboro. The couple have been living in a Windham and Windsor Housing Trust shared equity home for more than 22 years.