Monkton malt grower is expanding — to Charlotte’s Nordic Farms
MONKTON — Peterson Quality Malt, which opened Vermont’s first malt house in Monkton five years ago, has purchased Nordic Farms, whose big, red-roofed barn stands at a high-profile location off Route 7 in Charlotte, and will move operations there early next year.
Peterson and its new equity partner, Hotel Vermont in Burlington, purchased the 583-acre former dairy for $2.4 million.
“One of the hardest things was crossing the county line,” malter Andrew Peterson acknowledged. “It’s hard moving from Addison County, where the towns and the county itself have been so supportive, and where we have so many breweries in our backyard. But this doesn’t change the product.”
Peterson has supplied Vermont brewers and distillers with malted grain, a key ingredient for beer and whiskey, since it opened in late 2013. Last year it processed grains from a network of growers cultivating a total 165 acres around the state, many of them in Addison County. This year that number grew to 720 and may climb as high as 1,500 in 2019, Peterson said. His five-year plan is to expand Vermont’s malting grain production to 7,000 acres.
“A lot of farmers are getting out of dairy and looking for alternative uses for their land,” Peterson (pictured) said. “Many of them are trying grain, just a little at first, but as they find that it’s viable, they’re starting to grow more.”
All 350 of Nordic’s farmable acres will be planted with barley and other grains, and Peterson plans to convert an existing barn into a malt house. Along with Hotel Vermont partners Jay and Matt Canning, Peterson is also developing a master business plan for the new venture. Because of its easement with the Vermont Land Trust, Nordic’s land and facilities must be used for agricultural purposes.
With its iconic red-roofed barn, visible from Route 7, Nordic Farms had long stood as a symbol of Vermont’s dairy industry. Shifting economics have put a squeeze on farmers over the last several years, however, and in 2017 Nordic filed for bankruptcy and its cows and equipment were sold at auction last March.
Peterson Quality Malts had been looking for new digs for a couple of years, having outgrown its facilities on Peterson’s Monkton farm. In 2017, Peterson nearly purchased 35 acres in Ferrisburgh, with an eye toward building a new 10,000-square-foot facility there, but the plan turned out to be cost-prohibitive.
Once the transition to Charlotte is complete, sometime early next year, Peterson plans to lease his current facilities in Monkton to another business, he said.
The operation, which grew out of his ambitions to be a beer brewer, began with “sort of playing around with malts in the kitchen, and eventually it turned into a larger project,” he said in a video released in October by the Vermont Department of Agriculture. Rather than compete with breweries in a state that boasts more per capita than any other in the U.S., Peterson decided to supply them with local ingredients instead.
“We want to be able to support the Vermont agricultural system and help it move forward into the 21st century,” he said at the conclusion of the video. “Supporting a local farmer — that’s money that’s staying in the economy.”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected]