Ricketson Farm in Stowe Conserved
$2.5M effort to protect historic farm driven by local donors, Town voters
One of Stowe’s most iconic farms is now protected. On March 23, the 217-acre Ricketson Farm on Route 100 was conserved by Ken Ricketson with assistance from the Vermont Land Trust and local support from Stowe Land Trust and the Town of Stowe.
The Ricketson family has lived on the land and stewarded the farm for more than one hundred years. Since he sold his dairy herd in 2020, Ken Ricketson has been leasing his fields to other local farmers in need of more land. Now that it is conserved, Ricketson will continue to own the farm and expects to keep leasing while he works out a transition plan.
“Growing up on the farm, we obviously have a strong connection to this land and are excited to see it conserved,” said Rita Ricketson, Ken’s sister. “Knowing that this piece of Stowe’s farming history will stay undeveloped is a great relief, and we hope new generations of farmers will be able to continue our family’s legacy.”
A permanent conservation easement guarantees that the farmland will not be developed and will remain available for farming. The easement also gives the land trusts the option to purchase the land at its agricultural value and sell it back to a farmer if the property would otherwise be sold to a non-farmer outside the Ricketson family. A provision in the easement allows for the farm to be subdivided into two farm parcels, and a new farmstead could be constructed off Stagecoach Road. Both farm parcels would then be subject to the conservation easement and option to purchase at agricultural value. This option provides greater flexibility for future farm enterprises.
As a working farm, public access is not guaranteed under the easement, and will remain at the landowner’s discretion. A portion of the VAST snowmobile trail that currently crosses the property will be unaffected by the farm’s conservation.
The property includes important forested wetlands, a rare peat bog and access to a VAST snowmobile trail. A companion river corridor easement will help to improve the health of Moss Glenn Brook visible from Route 100.
“This is an amazing farm to conserve,” said Al Karnatz of the Vermont Land Trust. “I’m so glad Ken stuck with the process. His family has cared for this land for generations. The whole community is indebted to him for conserving the farm and for including protections on Moss Glen Brook and the bog.”
A significant bargain sale generously provided by Ricketson brought the cost of the project within reach for the organizations. The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board provided half of the $2.5 million needed with a combination of state and federal funding that equaled one of the largest individual farmland protection grants in the Board’s 35-year history.
"VHCB is proud to support our partners in the conservation of this incredible farm and community asset,” said Gus Seelig, VHCB’s Executive Director. “It would not be possible without the support of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, who contributed $1,150,000 in federal funding for this project.”
Stowe Land Trust succeeding in raising the other half of the $2.5 million needed through an ambitious local campaign. More than 400 individual donors participated, and Stowe voters approved contributing $200,000 in town capital funds toward the effort. In total, the land trust raised $1,263,000 in private donations, exceeding their campaign goal by $16,000. The remaining funds will be earmarked for future land protection projects. The farm will remain on the town tax roll, and remains enrolled in Stowe’s Farmers Contract program.
“We are extremely grateful to Ken Ricketson, our partners, and everyone who joined with us to conserve this landmark farm,” said Kristen Sharpless, Stowe Land Trust’s executive director. “The overwhelming local support we received demonstrates the importance our community places on ensuring working farms continue to have a home in our town.”
A special event to celebrate the farm’s conservation will be held at SLT’s annual meeting in September. All members of the community are welcome to attend.