Orb Weaver Farm joins Vermont Land Trust

MONKTON — Marjorie Susman and Marian Pollack, owners of Orb Weaver Farm, are legends in the Vermont cheese world. Soon after buying their first Jerseys in 1981, they quickly realized they needed to do something different to survive in the dairy business. Before long, they decided to make cheese and they haven’t looked back.
Fifteen generations of cows later, their farmhouse cheeses continually win national and international awards.
Susman and Pollack recently conserved 102 acres of their Monkton farm with the Vermont Land Trust.
“We’ve been farming this land for well over 30 years, and often wondered what would happen to our beautiful farm after we retired,” said Susman. “Working with the Vermont Land Trust was the answer we were looking for. Not only has our land been conserved, but we are now able to make some much needed infrastructure improvements.”
The name Orb Weaver comes from a spider of the same name that makes symmetrical webs. Susman and Pollack see the web as a metaphor for the cyclical rhythms of their farm.
They milk their small herd twice a day from November through May, which results in 7,000 pounds of cheese. The cows spend the summer in the pasture while Susman and Pollack grow the organic vegetables that comprise a third of their business. They sell their produce at food co-ops, markets and restaurants. In 2000, Susman and Pollack built their own cheese cave.
In addition to 50 acres of hayfields and pasture, the farmland has good agricultural soil that provides an excellent resource for their organic vegetable business. The farm also lies in the middle of a rich ecological area. Little Otter Creek meanders through the land. More than 40 acres of wetlands and rare forest types — clayplain and floodplain forests —  provide rich wildlife habitat. A portion of the land is in a habitat area used by the endangered Indiana bat.
“This farm has many unique features that make it important to conserve,” said Al Karnatz of the Vermont Land Trust. “It has good soils, important ecological features, and supports a vibrant agricultural business. Marjorie and Marian do an excellent job of sustainably managing the natural resources and it was a pleasure to work with them to protect this land.”
The land was protected with a conservation easement — a legal tool that limits development on productive farmland and forestland, and other meaningful natural and community places. Landowners continue to own, manage and pay taxes on the land and can sell their land; however, the conservation easement permanently remains on the property.
The sale of the conservation easement was funded by local, state and federal sources.
The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board grant contribution was matched by federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program managed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The financial assistance from Conservation Board and NRCS help make it possible for Vermont to permanently protect Vermont’s highest quality agricultural resources.
Funding also came from Monkton’s Agricultural and Natural Areas Committee’s conservation fund.
“The committee is so happy to celebrate the conservation of Orb Weaver Farm,” said Laura Farrell, a member of the committee. “It is a successful and innovative farm that is an integral part of Monkton’s working landscape. This project embodies our mission, which is to protect the farmland, woodland, natural, and recreational areas, and other open spaces that help give Monkton its distinctive rural character and quality of life. We look forward to working with other Monkton landowners.”
For their part Susman and Pollack were grateful to the town of Monkton. “It’s great to live in a community that values the working landscape,” reflected Susman.

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