Posted March 16, 2023 at 12:26pm by Rasna Dhillon

Conservation supports new farm in central Vermont

Farmers - man and woman -- standing in greenhouse with seedlings growing

Berlin farm grows vegetables for the community
Visitors to the Montpelier farmers’ market have been enjoying fresh vegetables from a new farm in the area. The veggies are grown by Gus Griffin and Mollie Podmore at the aptly named Glinnis Hill Farm located on Glinnis Road in Berlin, just up the hill from Northfield Village.

New farm established with conservation help
After several years working on other farms, Gus and Mollie wanted to buy land to start their own vegetable farm. A few years ago, they started looking at farm parcels for sale. They also began talking to the Vermont Land Trust about conservation, to make the land more affordable for them as beginning farmers.

“The barriers to starting a farm are high, especially as we compete with developers for prime agricultural land,” explained Gus.

In 2021 Gus bought the Berlin land together with his parents, Rodman Griffin and Katherine McCabe. He and Mollie started the vegetable farm and immediately got to work, improving the farmhouse and fields.

VLT staff continued to work with them on the land’s conservation. In late winter 2023, they conserved the farm with VLT. Conservation funding helped to offset the cost of the land for the farmers.

“Getting it going would not have been possible without support from VLT,” Gus said.

“We’re thrilled to support Gus and Mollie on their farming journey and help bring a new farm to central Vermont,” said VLT’s Britt Haselton. “Their focus on sustainable practices, their on-farm events and their efforts to make local food available to more people will bring many benefits to the community.”

Griffin and Podmore worked with Sara Armstrong Donegan, farm business specialist at the Intervale Center, to develop a business plan for Glinnis Hill Farm.

“When VLT collaborates with dedicated, skilled farmers who build a solid business plan through the Farm Viability program, we can really make progress in preserving our agricultural and rural landscapes,” said Sara. “This is not an easy process — especially when you consider the market pressure of purchasing land combined with the economic realities of running a farm business.”

Making local food affordable
Mollie and Gus sell their organic veggies at the Capital City Farmers’ Market in Montpelier, their farmstand in Berlin, and through a CSA program.

They offer a sliding-scale CSA to make food more affordable for low-income customers. Financial support from the Mountain School helped them pay for eight low-income CSA shares in 2022. They also work with NOFA Vermont’s Farm Share Program and  host music events on the farm. The money they raise helps offset the cost of produce for lower-income families.

Supporting clean water and habitat in the Winooski River watershed

The farm includes over a mile of frontage along Cox Brook and some smaller streams that flow into the Winooski River and ultimately Lake Champlain. The conservation easement placed on the farm makes sure that the land along the water’s edge will support native vegetation, clean water and wildlife habitat. Several acres of wetlands have also been protected, along with two vernal pools that provide important breeding habitat for amphibians.  

Funding for the conservation protections was provided by VHCB, with matching funds from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service program.  

Photo courtesy of Glinnis Hill Farm