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Welcome to a class all about how to raise rabbits — and eat them — in Vermont

A photo of a person holding two rabbits, one grey and one black, in each hand. The person is visible between their neck and waist, and is wearing a long braid, a nametag reading "Amanda" and a blue flannel jacket
Elodie Reed
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Vermont Public
Amanda Corey shows off two rabbits during a Vermont Wild Kitchen workshop held in Franklin County on Sunday, April 14, 2024.

Food insecurity here has been rising. And according to the nonprofit Hunger Free Vermont, that's due to the pandemic, rising costs of basic necessities and longstanding underlying causes like white supremacy and race-based inequities.

But research from the University of Vermont and University of Maine shows residents who grow and harvest their own food can become more food secure.

Enter Vermont Wild Kitchen, co-run by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and the nonprofit Rural Vermont. The program educates residents about all the local and wild food that the state has to offer.

On a recent Sunday morning, Vermont Wild Kitchen hosted about a dozen Vermonters in Franklin County to learn about raising rabbits for meat. The group cooked up some rabbit dishes for lunch at the Fairfield Community Center — but first, they met the animals, alive, at G.I.V.E. A. Care Homestead in Bakersfield.

Vermont Public’s Adiah Gholston and Elodie Reed met up with them and brought back this audio postcard. And a heads up: This story includes a description of killing a rabbit.

This piece was produced for the ear. We highly recommend listening to the audio. We’ve also provided a transcript, which has been edited for length and clarity.

A photo of a book with a yellow background with the title: it's as easy as ABC, about bunny colors: spelling out the essentials of coat color genetics" with photos of bunnies next to the words. The book is on a table next to a stack of cutting boards and large knives.
Elodie Reed
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Vermont Public
In April, Vermont Wild Kitchen offered a class all about raising and cooking rabbit.

At the farm

Erica Martel: Was there anybody else that wanted to go in that didn’t go in?

Noam Ben-Zacharia: I would love to check it out, yeah.

Erica Martel: Come on in!

Renesmee Bogardus: Hi, I'm Renesmee, slash "Nessie" for short. I'm also here to learn, but I just want to see the rabbits.

Erica Martel: Where she’s at right now — I'm just going to pop it open for you — she's in my horse stall that we turned into a rabbit run.

Noam Ben-Zacharia: Are these mamas right here?

Erica Martel: So yes, so there are some that have boxes in them because they have babies. And you can actually touch and play with them. I'll let you hold it. Come here baby!

[Unidentified]: Oh my goodness!

A photo of a pair of hands holding a small, grey little bunny.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
A sweet, sweet baby bunny at G.I.V.E. A. Care Homestead in Bakersfield.

Shelby Girard: So if folks want to share your name, where you're from and maybe what brought you to this workshop today.

Noam Ben-Zacharia: Yeah my name is Noam. I'm also from Bristol. And yeah, I think we were excited about just like, the long-term prospect of raising our own meat, whether that's rabbit or sheep, or whatever it is. And so, this felt like a good first step.

Amanda Corey: Most rabbits, you want to try to get them bred before they turn a year. But that's — I've had rabbits that I've bred for the first time over a year do fine.

Parker Bogardus: So there's like a certain time limit to breed them?

Amanda Corey: As long as your males are producing nice-looking babies that don't look deformed or anything you can use them until they go. I only breed my females maybe two, three times a year, and I can get a good four, five years out of a female.

Megan Chauvin: I'm Megan Chauvin. We're from Fletcher. And I want to eventually homestead within a handful of years and thought that the idea of rabbits might be something to learn more about. I just wanted to see, like, the humanity part of it and see how other people do it.

A photo of a group of people standing in a circle outside on a sunny, early spring day on green grass, with blue sky overhead and a white farm building in the background.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Erica Martel, left, and Amanda Corey lead the discussion about raising rabbits for meat.

Erica Martel: The thing that's most important to me is that it's very instantaneous. So I do use a pellet gun, and I just — you aim it between their ears, right down, so it aims right out their mouth area and it cuts it right off for them. So that’s it.

Noam Ben-Zacharia: Is that what you do Amanda?

Amanda Corey: I broomstick. I prefer broomstick just because it's quick —

Erica Martel: It's quick for her!

Amanda Corey: Like, I can have a rabbit dispatched in eight seconds.

Daniel Burke Perez: How does broomsticking work?

Amanda Corey: So you could use a piece of rebar. And you take the rabbit and you put them so that their head is outward. And their body is this way … And you're stepping on the bar, and you pull up on the back legs while the neck is under the bar. So when you pull, it dislocates the neck. It's a quick cervical dislocation, and then you can just go about processing after that.

In the kitchen

Erica Martel: So, with your rabbit legs — these are all the back hind legs, and there's three of them in this bad boy, everybody's gonna get their own hind leg to debone.

Tom Jones: There you go, look at that. Kind of just want to let it show you how to do it — as stupid as that sounds.

Noam Ben-Zacharia: That doesn’t sound stupid.

Tom Jones: But like, once you get in there, you see the leg, you see how it's connected. That'll help you start seeing where to put the knife, and it's just such a gentle cut most of the time.

A photo of two people sitting at a table wearing blue latex gloves and cutting into raw meat with knives on cutting boards. More people are in the background at the other end of the long white table.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Megan Chauvin, right, and James Williams from Fletcher take a stab at cutting rabbit leg meat from the bone.

Erica Martel: We have the ability to get started on making our quiches, and things like that, so they can get into the oven. But we also want to make sure that we grind up this stuff, so that we can get some taco meat cooking as well.

So my favorite tool in my kitchen is my KitchenAid. There's so many different pieces and parts — but the meat grinder is fabulous.

So, I'll give this to you and then I'll let you shove some of it right on into the top here.

Sherri Cossaboom: OK, we’re getting a meat grinder!

A photo of a person with a shirt reading "i got buns hun" sprinkling green fiddleheads on top of a quick in a pie pan.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Amanda Corey adds a final flourish — fiddleheads — to a rabbit meat quiche.

Erica Martel: So, next is cheese. Amanda — we gotta do your fiddleheads!

Amanda Corey: Oh you're putting bacon in it too? Yum.

Erica Martel: Yeah girl, of course we're puttin' bacon in this.

After the meal

Renesmee Bogardus: I think my favorite part was the food. The end.

Moe Bogardus: My favorite part was cutting the vegetables.

Cheyenne Bogardus: We have like 20 rabbits so, now we're going to do a few of them and fix our sausage-making meat grinder and do it. But I learned the broom method of dispatch better than I'd had learned it before at a previous one. It was very, very educational.

Megan Chauvin: I want to eventually raise chickens, now rabbits. I'd like to have a couple of cows. That's the long-term goal. But it's really — I want to be sustainable. This is just one check off the list of the things I want to learn and accomplish.

A photo of two people scooping taco fixings onto their plates from a table by a big window.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Vermont Wild Kitchen participants Parker Bogardus, left, and Jamie Hancock, enjoy the end of class with some good rabbit meat tacos.

The follow-up to this Vermont Wild Kitchen class, slaughtering rabbits, will take place at G.I.V.E. A. Care Homestead this coming Saturday.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Elodie is a reporter and producer for Vermont Public. She previously worked as a multimedia journalist at the Concord Monitor, the St. Albans Messenger and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, and she's freelanced for The Atlantic, the Christian Science Monitor, the Berkshire Eagle and the Bennington Banner. In 2019, she earned her MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Southern New Hampshire University.
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