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To accommodate shopping in an age of social distancing, there is a new retail shack at Thorncrest Chocolate Shop and Farm in Goshen, Conn. Through the back window, visitors can see Pretty Lady, a Texas longhorn, and her new calf. Photo by Cynthia Hochswender​

In a World Without Ag Fairs, Still There Is Thorncrest Farm

Dairy

This is the time of year when, normally, we would head to the Goshen Fair in Connecticut or the Dutchess County Fair in New York and learn the differences between all those types of cows that we see in the fields as we drive around on our country roads.

This year there are no agricultural fairs. But you can still learn about dairy cows — and taste some exquisite handmade chocolates made from the milk of those same cows. 

If you’ve lived here for a while, you’ve probably heard of Thorncrest Chocolate Shop and Farm in Goshen, Conn. Almost everyone with a sweet tooth knows this place — and raves about it. 

The chocolate itself is silky, creamy, gorgeous, everything that chocolate ought to be. 

It’s fresh, so much so that it comes with a warning that these sweets are best eaten within two weeks of purchase (and you should store them in a cool, dark place — but not your refrigerator, where they’re likely to get discolored). 

There are pre-made assortments but why bother when there is the temptation of the daily menu, which includes almost 30 different specialty items, including (for example) Madras Curry Dark Chocolate, Lavender Dark Chocolate and Lemon Mint Dark Chocolate — in addition to more traditional favorites such as caramels; chocolate bark with granola or trail mix; chocolate with peanut butter (called Tali’s Delights); or citrus peel, apricots or candied ginger dipped in chocolate.

And then of course there are the cows, who lounge around in their stalls eating hay, steps away from the newly built retail shack. 

The chocolate master is Kimberly Thorn. The masters of the cows are her husband, Clint, and sons Garrett and Lyndon, who are generally out and about working on the farm and are happy to answer questions about their “girls,” the dairy cows.

Like the farm they live on, the cows are lovely and clean. The barn is open for visits; often one of the family farmers is there, ready to answer questions and introduce “the ladies” — and explain which cow’s milk produces which chocolates, caramels, yogurts and cheeses. 

You can phone in your order (sometimes there is a long line). You can also phone ahead to arrange a more deluxe tour of the barn.

The dairy barn is open for visits from Thursday to Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Private group tours are offered at 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Thursday though Monday from May to October; there is a fee for these group visits, which can accommodate up to 35 people (the fee is between $50 and $85 depending on the size of the group; there is no charge for individual informal visits to the barn). 

There are also (in a non-quarantine time) chocolate tastings and talks at $10 per person; and there are cheese-making classes.

The farm’s website warns that sometimes circumstances will arise that will keep visitors out of the barn.

“We are a working dairy farm and occasionally these hours will need to be flexible for the stable, as well as weather dependent,”the website warns. “This is to ensure the safety, health and comfort of our cows.” 

The chocolate shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

To learn more about Thorncrest Chocolate Shop and Farm, go to www.milkhousechocolates.net, where you can see the daily menu,   arrange a group tour and get directions; or call 860-309-2545.

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