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Addison farm wins a conservation grant

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) last week announced grants totaling $3,083,910 to protect 2,127 acres of agricultural land on 14 farms and a sugarbush and to conserve 641 acres of wooded and open land on three properties with recreational trails in the towns of Williston, Lyndon and West Windsor.
The grants were made to the Vermont Land Trust, the Lake Champlain Land Trust, Kingdom Trails and The Trust for Public Lands. The funding commitments were made at the Board’s May meeting.
“Farmers will use these VHCB grants to provide capital for expansion, diversification, debt reduction or retirement,” said Chuck Ross, Vermont’s secretary of Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. “Conservation allows farmers to realize a portion of the equity in their property while also permanently protecting the land, ensuring that Vermont farmland will be available for generations to come. It’s a win-win for farmers as well as for Vermont’s agricultural economy.”
The farms to be protected include operating dairies, fruit and vegetable operations, livestock farms, a sugarbush, and farmland providing additional land base for existing farms. Six of the projects that received funding commitments involve pending transfers of farmland to new owners — transactions that will be facilitated by the sale of development rights. The conservation of the farms will occur when the projects close.
In one of two meetings annually to consider applications for the conservation of farmland, the Vermont Land Trust worked with 15 farms around the state to put together the conservation deals approved by the Board. Examples include:
•  An organic dairy in Addison owned by the Harrison family will receive a grant to conserve 432 acres. The Harrisons are excellent managers who have participated in numerous state and federal programs to reduce soil erosion and protect surface waters — the conservation easement will make these protections permanent.
The Harrisons plan to use the proceeds from the sale of development rights to upgrade and expand their freestall barn.
•  The Berthiaume farm in Fairfax will receive a grant to conserve 206 acres of certified organic fields. Selling development rights will enable the owners to retire from farming and to sell the property, complete with infrastructure for a dairy operation, to a young couple from Brookfield who will bring a herd of Jerseys to the farm this spring.
The farm is adjacent to the St. Albans City reservoir, and the conservation easement will require management practices that will protect water quality.

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