On April 29th, after more than a year of project work and raising more than $372,000 in funds, Stowe Land Trust and the Vermont Land Trust purchased a conservation easement from Christine Kaiser on her 49-acre farm in Nebraska Valley. Simultaneously, Annie and Andrew Paradee purchased the conserved farm at its agricultural value. This conservation success thus completes the first affordable farmland conservation effort in the town of Stowe.
Christine Kaiser and her family have been farming the land for decades. Kaiser, 70, had been seeking farm buyers for several years, in hopes of retiring from farming. Unable to find suitable buyers, she was considering selling the land for development. Stowe Land Trust (SLT) and the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) combined skills and expertise to provide Kaiser with an offer to purchase an easement on the farm. Through VLT’s Farmland Access Program, VLT and SLT were able to identify new farmers to purchase the protected farm. “This is wonderful – it’s more than I could have asked for,” said Kaiser. “To be able to retire and sell my farm to new farmers, and see the land continue to be farmed is all I could have asked for. It’s a wonderful opportunity for my family.”
Kaiser’s farm is one of only a handful of operations that remains in Stowe, where much of the community’s open farmland has already been developed. High land values make farming challenging in Stowe – particularly for new farmers who are just getting into the business. “Critical to Vermont’s agriculture’s future is providing enterprising farmers such as the Paradees with access to high quality and affordable farmland,” said Bob Heiser, from VLT. “And because our farming future is dependent on public support, it is also important to connect community members with farmland and farmers. History has shown that Stowe is a very supportive community. We are excited about working with the Stowe Land Trust and helping to establish another local, exciting agricultural initiative and protect an important part of the local landscape in perpetuity.”
The Stowe Land Trust acted to engage the community and provided local fundraising power. Executive Director Caitrin Maloney spoke about the community involvement: “The response to this project has been so strong; with more than 200 people donating to help protect the farm. The Stowe community clearly values small farms and local food production. We are delighted to have the opportunity to pull the pieces together to make this work – it was a true community effort.”
Farm buyers Annie and Andrew Paradee are eager to get on the land and begin farming. They plan to produce eggs right away, having purchased 85 laying hens earlier this spring. They also plan to purchase lambs this spring, and plan to sell vegetables at local Stowe markets, including the new natural food market Commodities located on the Mountain Road, later this year. “Andrew and I are thrilled that the partnership between us, Christine, the Stowe Land Trust and the Vermont Land Trust has accomplished the conservation of the Kaiser Farm for all time,” said Ms. Paradee. “We look forward to supplying the Stowe area with high-quality, organically-oriented produce produced on this beautiful piece of land.”
While some farming activities will begin this year, the Paradees’ overall business plan indicates that they will be growing their enterprise over time, in manageable pieces. Annie and Andrew worked with Sam Smith of the Intervale Center, a service provider for Vermont Housing and Conservation Board’s Farm and Forest Viability Program to develop their plan.
There will be a ribbon cutting event at the farm on May 14th at 1pm to celebrate the protection of the farm. The public is welcome. For more details please visit https://www.stowelandtrust.org/events/.
To learn more about the project please visit https://www.stowelandtrust.org/current/