Fairfax—After farming their Fairfax land for more than 25 years, Walter and Diane Berthiaume decided to work with the Vermont Land Trust to conserve the property and find new farmers to buy the farm.
When they first reached out to the Vermont Land Trust, they were interested in selling a conservation easement on the farm so that the land wouldn’t be subdivided for development.
In conversations with the land trust, they learned how the organization’s Farmland Access program could also help them find the right farmer to buy the land. This program has been connecting beginning farmers with affordable farmland for more than 10 years.
Luckily for Jamie and Dawn Blodgett, the Berthiaumes decided to sell their farm through the Access program.
“Diane and I wanted our farm to remain a small family dairy farm and to keep it organic if possible,” said Walter Berthiaume. “Conserving with VLT was one step, but selling to the Blodgetts at the same time was really important.”
The Blodgetts had been leasing land in Brookfield for their dairy operation while they worked with Jon Ramsay of the Farmland Access Program to find the right farm to buy. When they learned about the Berthiaume Farm, it seemed like a good fit for their 70-head operation. They now own the 333-acre dairy.
“Jon was a tremendous help in finding us a farm and he helped us get settled in a new town,” reflected Jamie Blodgett. “The process of conserving and buying a farm takes a while but overall it’s been a very positive experience. We couldn’t buy our own farm without assistance from the Vermont Land Trust.”
The Blodgetts have moved to their new farm and are in the process of transitioning their herd to organic production.
The Berthiaumes are pleased with the outcome, and even help out on their old farm. “We bought the farm over 25 years ago so the place needed some young blood,” said Walter. “They’re a good fit; the Blodgett’s farming goals matched ours.”
The farm has more than 125 acres of open farmland that is used for hay and pasture. In addition, the Berthiaumes generously donated an easement on 127 acres of adjoining woodland, which was sold to the Blodgetts as part of the farm.
“This is a great outcome for the Berthiaumes, the Blodgetts, and the land,” said Jon Ramsay of the Vermont Land Trust. “The Berthiaumes feel good about what’s happened to the land they stewarded for a quarter century, the Blodgetts were able to get a start on land they actually own, and the land will remain permanently open and available for agriculture.”
Funding for the farm conservation easement came from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board with matching funds from the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program managed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The financial assistance from VHCB and NRCS help make it possible to permanently protect Vermont’s highest quality agricultural resources. The Blodgetts were able to buy the farm with assistance from the USDA Farm Loan Program.
Costs associated with the easement donated on the forested portion of the farm were supported with funds awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program.