The Story of Vermont Switchel Company
New England has been home to Switchel since the American Colonies drank it in the 17th century. It became a traditional and popular drink at hay harvest time for farmers. Herman Melville wrote of Switchel in I and My Chimney, "I will give a traveler a cup of Switchel, if he want it; but am I bound to supply him with a sweet taste?" Many generations of farmers in Vermont knew that Switchel was in essence ‘Nature’s Gatorade.’ In 2017, Food & Wine said ‘Switchel: The Best Summer Drink You’ve Never Heard Of.’
Susan’s mother-in-law, Martha Alexander, recalls carrying a jug of Switchel out to the field where the men were haying. Hill farming in northern Vermont is not for the faint of heart nor a profitable venture on such a small scale so now the Alexander farm is used as a vacation home. While the Perron farm still produces hay and houses heifers the last of the sons has retired from farming but still lives on some of the original acreage and continues the tradition of making maple syrup. Today round hay bales wrapped in plastic dot the landscape and tractors have air-conditioned cabs. Though we no longer pitch loose hay, Switchel is still the perfect beverage for keeping hydrated and cool while enjoying a brisk hike, gardening, kicking around a soccer ball or just kicking back.
Origins are hard to pin down historically, but Susan Alexander, owner of Vermont Switchel until 2019, proudly noted that her husband was a 7th generation dairy farmer in Glover, Vermont who enjoyed Switchel regularly. His grandfather’s Joseph Alexander and Ernest Perron are shown here in a rare moment of leisure while bringing in the hay. Joseph is the one proudly perched atop his loose hay on the horse drawn wagon and Ernest is the one standing tall (top left behind the tractor) with some of his 16 children posing for the camera.