East St. Johnsbury – Susan Monahan and Hisa Kominami are gearing up for a busy season on a 35-acre farm they bought from the Vermont Land Trust.
The farm is near the village of East St. Johnsbury on U.S. Route 2. Its red barn, with the words “Locust Grove Farm” on the siding, is an iconic landmark that is well known to travelers and locals.
Susan and Hisa’s new farm business will be called Roots Too Farm.
“We're planning to expand our markets and connect with the community through a vegetable and flower CSA with weekly distributions at the farm,” explained Susan. “We're also planning to build a more permanent farmstand in the beautiful old dairy barn and be open Wednesday through Sundays starting in June.” Susan and Hisa will begin grazing cows and chickens this coming year.
The Vermont Land Trust had purchased the farm from the family of the late Edith Patenaude, who, with her husband, Wayne, ran a dairy there for three decades. After inheriting the land, Edith and Wayne’s six adult children approached the land trust about conservation options for the farm they grew up on and love dearly.
In 2015, the Vermont Land Trust bought the 35-acre property from the Edith Patenaude Trust, which has highly rated agricultural soils, 26 tillable acres, and nearly a mile of frontage on the Moose River.
The purchase was part of the land trust’s Farmland Access Program which connects affordable farmland with new and beginning farmers. A competitive public proposal process was held to find new farmers to buy the farm; Susan and Hisa were chosen through this process. They began leasing the farm from the Vermont Land Trust until funding for conservation and purchase of the farm was secured.
The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board provided funding for the sale of a conservation easement, which will permanently protect the farmland from development and make sure the farm will remain affordable to future farmers.
The Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation also contributed to the project because of the farm’s location along the Moose River.
Historically, the land had been farmed virtually to the water’s edge. The conservation easement creates a 50-foot-wide buffer of natural vegetation between the farmed land and the river. A total of five acres will be taken out of production, trees will be planted, and a four-year program to eradicate Japanese knotweed will begin.
Susan and Hisa were able to secure funding to buy the farm through the USDA Farm Service Agency. The Farm Service Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets also contributed toward water quality protections along the river through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
“We are thankful to the Patenaude family for having the vision to keep this land in farming,” said Tracy Zschau, conservation director for the Vermont Land Trust. “And, we are excited to see Susan and Hisa expand their business and contribute to the local food economy.”