By CYRUS LEVESQUE
NEW HAVEN — The Champlain Valley Greenbelt Alliance (CVGA) considers the Charron family farm in New Haven “one of the most striking settings” on the stretch of Route 7 between Middlebury and Shelburne. Thanks to the Vermont Land Trust’s recent purchase of development rights on a large acreage along that strip, the land will continue to be farmed for a long time.
With partial funding from the CVGA, the Vermont Land Trust in May bought a conservation easement on 198.5 acres of the Charron farm.
“It is important to have some open land and I hate to see good farmland growing houses,” said Lee Charron, who has farmed the New Haven property with his wife, Brenda, since 1977.
The VLT did not buy the land itself. Rather, it purchased a conservation easement. As long as the land trust holds the development rights to the land, it cannot be used for anything but farming.
“The Charrons are very committed to farming,” said Al Karnatz, co-director of the VLT in the region. “They’ve been around for a long time and hope to see it stay a farm after they’re gone.”
Lee and Brenda Charron own about 125 head of Holsteins. Until now their land was not large enough to grow enough crops to feed all their cows, so they had to rent land from a neighbor. But Karnatz said this sale made it possible for them to buy enough land for their entire operation.
“This deal also gave us an opportunity to buy more land, which helps secure our future in the dairy business,” Lee Charron said.
Karnatz felt that because of the location of this land — which is east of Route 7 north of the intersection with Lime Kiln Road — this deal would help maintain a good environment for farms in the area. “It’s one of our most promising pieces because of its location on Route 7,” he said. “Our hope is that we can protect enough critical blocks of farmland to keep farming viable.”
The CVGA is a Shelburne-based organization devoted to creating “greenbelts of open space along major road corridors” to conserve Vermont’s agricultural and natural resources. Its initial focus was on the Middlebury-Shelburne stretch of Route 7.
“We have identified that whole stretch of the Route 7 corridor as very scenic,” said Kate Lampton, executive director of the CVGA. “The Charron property was one where we were very fortunate to have (a deal) happen.”
The negotiations took almost three years from start to finish. “It was a long, multi-year process and they kept with it,” Karnatz said. “In the end, they are leaving a lasting legacy to Vermont and for future generations.”
The VLT is a nonprofit organization devoted to preserving as much of Vermont’s wild or agricultural land as possible. They generally work by buying easements, in which landowners agree to limit development on productive farmland and forestland for a price, so those landowners can afford to use it as they have been.
Charron said that business has been good overall, but selling the easement will provide breathing room against problems like the bad weather that has plagued farmers this year.
Charron said that the deal will allow him to concentrate on day-to-day operations of his farm, and right now that is more important than ever, given the extremely wet spring.
“You have to make hay while the sun shines, this year even more than usual,” he joked.