At first, Greg Burtt didn’t have a formal business plan. He didn’t think about finances. All he had was a handful of apple seeds, a plot of land on his family’s farm in Cabot, Vermont, and a passion for the outdoors.

Starting in 2005, Burtt planted and cared for about 700 apple trees, which would become the inaugural trees in his pick-your-own operation, Burtt’s Apple Orchard. The orchard officially opened for business in 2009, and eight years later, he’s got a booming business with about 9,000 trees.

Burtt wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Like other farmers say: (agriculture)’s in your blood,” Burtt said, standing in front of a line of apple trees. “Once you’re farming, it’s hard to stop, so you look for any way to keep going at it.

“I love being outside. I love the fact that I’m outside every day.”

In addition to his pick-your-own business and farm stand, Burtt sells apples wholesale across the region, and The Abbey Group is proud to be one of his customers.

The Abbey Group likes to feature local products in its 100-plus school cafeterias and is always looking to forge working relationships with food producers across the region.

About three years ago, Burtt approached Abbey Group Food Service Director Bob Hildebrand, and the two have worked together ever since, making sure Burtt’s apples reach the hands of local school children across Vermont.

Burtt thinks often about his three daughters, two of whom are currently in local schools.

“Knowing that the foods they’re eating are coming from neighbors is a big deal to me,” he said.

For Burtt, it’s important that his children can connect with their local identity through the foods they eat. It helps them to be good stewards of the land.

“I’m happy to be able to supply apples to our kids for that reason,” he said.

In an average year, The Abbey Group purchases about 6,000 cases of apples — 138 apples per case — through partnerships with Reinhart Food Service, Green Mountain Farm-to-School and individual producers.

Burtt’s Apple Orchard is just one of many local businesses that help feed our children.