Vermont Land Trust Helps Farm Find New Home in Shaftsbury
Lisa MacDougall started Mighty Food Farm in 2006 on five leased acres in Pownal, with a 1953 tractor and an old rototiller. Over the years, she expanded to ten acres and more than 200 members of her CSA food-share. She now owns 154 acres in Shaftsbury after working with the Vermont Land Trust’s Farmland Access Program.
MacDougall spent six years searching for good-quality, affordable farmland, not an easy thing to do. The Farmland Access Program matches farmers with farmland they can afford. Often the sale of a conservation easement, which permanently restricts the land to agricultural use, helps to offset the cost of the land for the farmer. “The Vermont Land Trust takes down the barriers by preserving farmland and making it a fiscal reality for farmers,” explained MacDougall. “Owning land means we will be able to invest in it for future generations. Ensuring there will be farms for our future is priceless and necessary.” MacDougall is currently growing 22 acres of vegetables and has around ten employees. She sells produce at the Bennington and Dorset farmers’ markets and though her CSA. She also delivers produce to office cafeterias near New York City. Local co-ops and restaurants purchase a large portion of the farm’s produce as well.
“Lisa is one of Vermont’s best young vegetable farmers,” said Vern Grubinger, a vegetable and berry specialist at University of Vermont Extension. “She demonstrates excellence in production, marketing and stewardship of the land, while striving for continuous improvement. I have watched her enterprise grow and I’m thrilled she now has the opportunity to … sustain her business into the future.”
The Vermont Land Trust purchased the Shaftsbury farm in 2015 from Owen and Kathy Beauchesne with the intent of conserving it through the Farmland Access Program. After a competitive business proposal, Lisa was chosen to buy the farm. “The Beauchesnes had been thinking about conserving their farm for almost a decade,” said Donald Campbell of the Vermont Land Trust. “They had taken immaculate care of the place and were very helpful. It pleased them to know that all the care they had taken with their land would benefit Lisa and future farmers to come.” The sale of conservation restrictions offsets the cost of the land, prevents development and ensures the land will always be available to future farmers.
“VHCB is pleased to help an enterprising farmer like Lisa purchase a permanent home for her farm business. Through our partnership with the Vermont Land Trust, we provide funding for the conservation easement and for the Farm Access Program,” said Gus Seelig, executive director of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. “Additionally, our Farm and Forest Viability Program provided Lisa with two years of in-depth business planning.” The VHCB funding was matched by a federal grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Contributions from individual community members closed the fundraising gap to make the project possible.