Organic Vegetable Farmer Works with Vermont Land Trust to Buy First Farmland
For immediate release: January 19, 2017
Shaftsbury—In 2006, Lisa MacDougall started Mighty Food Farm on five leased acres in Pownal with a 1953 Ford Golden Jubilee and an old Troy-Bilt rototiller. Over the years, she expanded to 10 acres and 200+ members of her year-round CSA food-share. After working with the Vermont Land Trust’s Farmland Access Program, Lisa now owns her own land—154 acres in Shaftsbury that she permanently conserved for agricultural use today.
Lisa spent six years searching for good-quality, affordable farmland—not an easy thing to do in many parts of Vermont. “Land is expensive,” explained Lisa. “Most farmers are financially strapped and owning enough acreage to produce food to make a living is a balance.”
The land trust’s Farmland Access Program matches farmers with farmland they can afford. In many cases, such as Lisa’s, the land trust helps farmers move from leasing to owning. 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 Lisa. “Owning land means we will be able to invest into our farm and take care of our soil for future generations. Soil is essential to grow food on and ensuring there will be farms for our future is priceless and necessary.”
Lisa is currently growing 22 acres of vegetables and has around 10 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 coops and restaurants purchase a large portion of the farm's produce as well.
“Lisa MacDougall 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 farm enterprise grow in recent years and I'm thrilled that she now has the opportunity to own the kind of farmland that will 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 process, 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 in the transition to a new farmer. 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 that the land will always be available to future generations of 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, VHCB provides funding for the conservation easement, and for VLT's Farm Access Program,” said Gus Seelig, Executive Director of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board. “Additionally, our Farm & Forest Viability Program provided Lisa with two years of in-depth business planning as she sought to expand her business.”
The VHCB grant funding was matched by a federal grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, which supports many farmland conservation projects in Vermont. Contributions from individual community members closed the fundraising gap to make this project possible.