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Organic Dairy Farmer Protects Stretch of Rock River

Increasingly, farmers, state and federal natural resource professionals, and conservation groups have been addressing flood resiliency and water quality concerns with conservation measures.Most recently, dairy farmer Guy Choiniere worked with the Vermont Land Trust, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and The Nature Conservancy to protect over a mile and a half of Rock River frontage on his farm, ensuring that it will always be able to access its natural floodplain without disruption.

Guy sold restrictions along a mile and a half of the Rock River, creating a “river corridor” that is legally protected by an easement held with the Vermont Land Trust. This corridor is an area where the river can meander and change its course, which reduces erosion hazards and flood risks, and improves water quality.

“Our family has worked very hard in building solid and vegetated river banks on our farm, so it only makes sense to conserve our part of the Rock River with a river corridor easement,” said Guy. “This will ensure the integrity of the river.” The conservation easement requires that future owners of this land must also keep the land within 50 feet of the river naturally vegetated.

The land, located on Gore Road and Tarte Road in Highgate, can still be used for farming but the river will not be armored or dredged. Steep slopes surround the river, with narrow terraces and pockets of wetlands nestled along the bases of these hills. These wetlands are further protected by the easement by limiting agriculture and timber harvesting in these areas.

“The conservation measures that are now in place will help improve water quality on the Rock River, which ultimately flows into Lake Champlain’s Missisquoi Bay,” explained Cara Montgomery of Vermont Land Trust. “We are grateful to have the opportunity to protect such a large area along this river, thanks to the Choinieres.”

Guy operates an organic grass-fed dairy with the help of his son Matt. The Choinieres ship milk to Organic Valley, and also raise chicken, pork, and veal, which they sell at their on-farm store.

Guy’s farm was conserved by his parents Henry and Raymonde Choiniere in 1997 with the Vermont Land Trust, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets. The land has 242 acres of excellent agricultural soils, plus 70 acres of woodland.

Funding for the river corridor easement was provided in part by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, which has identified the Rock River as one that would benefit from stream protection and water quality efforts. This project was also made possible in part with funding provided by The Nature Conservancy under a grant from Keurig Green Mountain, Inc.