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Conservation Helps Farmers Purchase Pawlet Farm

News Release — Vermont Land Trust
Feb. 3, 2014

For more information, contact:
· Donald Campbell, Southwest and Mettowee Valley Regional Director for the Vermont Land Trust, (802) 442-4915 or

· Elise Annes, V.P. for Community Relations for the Vermont Land Trust, (802) 262-1206 or

Family Uses Land for Sweet Potato Business

Pawlet — Tim and Brooke Hughes-Muse and their four young daughters are now the happy owners of a 39-acre sweet potato farm aptly called The Laughing Child. The purchase of their farm was made possible through the Vermont Land Trust’s Farmland Access Program, which helps farmers connect with affordable farmland through conservation.

The land had been owned by long-time vegetable farmers Brian and Justine Denison from Schaghticoke, NY. They had purchased the farm because of its superior soils and proximity to good markets. Although the couple later decided to sell the land to focus on their New York farm, both felt strongly that the Pawlet land remain a farm.

They worked with the Vermont Land Trust to sell a conservation easement on the property, which in turn made the land affordable to Tim and Brooke.

“We are so grateful to the Vermont Land Trust for its dedication to protecting open land and farming not only for people today, but also for future generations of farmers and landowners,” said Justine Denison.

Funding for the conservation easement was provided by a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board that was matched by the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, managed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Tim and Brooke, both graduates of nearby Green Mountain College, had been working towards having their own farm for several years. In 2010 Tim worked on the Denisons’ vegetable farm in New York. Then he and Brooke began renting the Denisons’ Pawlet property, farming it, and raising their family.

With the high price of land, buying farmland in Vermont is a challenge for new farmers. “We have been aspiring to own a farm for 11 years, and now our dream has come true,” said Tim. “It could not have happened without the support of Vermont Land Trust.”

As they were getting started, Tim and Brooke developed an important relationship with a neighbor, Barbara Moore. Moore is the owner of The Good Table, a café and catering company that brings farm-to-table selections to businesses and events in Westchester County, New York and Fairfield County, Connecticut. Barbara is now a significant purchaser of sweet potatoes from Tim and Brooke’s farm. In 2012, Tim raised 33,000 pounds of prime sweet potatoes, dividing his sales between The Good Table and Black River Produce.

Barbara’s connection to Tim and Brooke’s land runs even deeper as the property was once farmed by her own family. “My roots are in Pawlet and I’m thrilled that the land that was once my family’s farm is back in active use producing fresh, delicious food thanks to Tim and Brooke,” said Barbara.

Supporting new farmers and new agricultural enterprises is a core part of the Vermont Land Trust’s work. “We are so pleased to have been a part of keeping this fertile ground in farming,” said Donald Campbell of the Vermont Land Trust. “The capital cost of buying land can be prohibitive, which is why we created our Farmland Access Program. There’s a direct connection between conservation and keeping Vermont’s farm economy vibrant.”

In designing the conservation restrictions on this farm, both the Denisons and the Hughes-Muses agreed that protection of water quality was critical. A third of a mile of the Mettowee River runs along the southern edge of their land. A 25-foot-wide area along the river bank is now designated as a no-cut buffer. This protection will reduce runoff and erosion. Public access to the river bank for fishing was also granted.

As part of this project, Brian and Justine also sold 27 forested acres to The Nature Conservancy, which then added the land to its large North Pawlet Hills conservation area surrounding the popular Haystack Mountain hiking trail.


The Vermont Land Trust is a statewide, member-supported, nonprofit land conservation organization. Since 1977, the Vermont Land Trust has permanently conserved more than 1,775 parcels of land covering more than 535,000 acres, or nearly nine percent of the private, undeveloped land in the state. The conserved land includes more than 775 working farms, hundreds of thousands of acres of productive forestland, and numerous parcels of community lands. This conservation work changes the lives of families, invigorates farms, launches new businesses, maintains scenic vistas, encourages recreational opportunity, and fosters a renewed sense of community. For more information or to become a member, contact: Vermont Land Trust, 8 Bailey Avenue, Montpelier, VT 05602, (802) 223-5234.