Albany – If you’ve been lucky enough to sample some of the milk and fine cheeses from Sweet Rowen Farmstead, you will know Paul Lisai is serious about quality and taste when it comes to one of Vermont’s finest products. Paul was recently able to secure the future of his business by purchasing land for his farm with help from the Vermont Land Trust.
Paul started Sweet Rowen Farmstead on rented land in Albany in 2011 with a vision to someday buy a farm and create a dairy-products business that would distribute milk directly to consumers and produce products such as cheese. But, three years later, Paul was notified by the owners they were selling the farm and that he would have to move his herd.
Paul had signed up with the Vermont Land Trust’s Farmland Access Program several years ago in hopes of finding a farm he could afford. He also worked with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), enrolling in the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program to develop a business plan to determine the feasibility of buying a farm.
“We connected Paul with one of our advisors, Sam Smith from the Intervale Center, who was able to help him plan for scaling up the on-farm value added processing, create a grazing and livestock management plan to suit a larger farm, and manage cash flow through the acquisition process,” said Ela Chapin, Director of VHCB’s Viability Program.
Eventually, Paul approached Patricia Reed, who was living out of state, to see if she was interested in selling her Albany farm. Together, Paul, the Vermont Land Trust, and the Viability Program developed a transition plan that worked for Paul’s growing business.
“In addition to presenting VLT with a strong farm business plan, Paul demonstrated he had the experience and skills to run a commercially viable farm operation,” said Jon Ramsay, VLT’s Farmland Access Program director.
In the fall of 2014, Paul bought the farm with financing from Yankee Farm Credit and an interim loan provided by the Vermont Land Trust that would be paid off when the conservation easement funds were secured to conserve the farm.
The Vermont Land Trust secured a grant for the conservation of the farm from VHCB, which was matched by the federal funds from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. VLT then worked with Paul to create a conservation easement that protects the 100-acre property, of which about 50 acres is farmland.
“Buying land is one of the most difficult hurdles for new farmers,” said Paul. “We are fortunate to work with VLT to secure a farm to own and grow our business. With land of our own it will be easier to plan for the future.”
Paul milks a herd of Randall Linebacks, a heritage breed, and distributes his milk and cheese through the Northeast Kingdom, central Vermont and the Burlington area. He can also be found at the Burlington, Montpelier, and Stowe farmers’ markets.