Writing and photographs by David Middleton, member of VLT Board of Trustees —
High up in a southward opening valley in the rolling hills around Chittenden, Bob and Bonnie Baird own and operate the 300-acre Baird Farm. Bob is the third generation of the Baird family to run this farm; his daughter Jenna, now working the sugarbush and selling maple products with her partner, Jacob, is the fourth.
Bob grew up on a farm just up the road, his parents bought the current farm in 1918, so it’s been 100 years of Bairds working the land along this old dead-end road. It was all dairy farming until the mid 1990s when Bob sold the cows and got out of the milking business and migrated over to syrup production. He now has 11,000 taps and 70 miles of tubing stitching his woods and his livelihood together in a year-round family operation.
“These maples were tapped before we got here and they’ll be tapped after I go if we continue to take care of the place. Some of the old sugar maples here have been tapped for more than 200 years; imagine that! There are a few that may be 300 years old; that’s before Vermont became a state!”
That’s quite a legacy for a tree, for a forest, for a farm and for the farmers who worked and took care of this bit of Vermont.
“My daughter is now doing the same things we all once did although much more efficiently and with greater care and connection,” says Bob. “And that opportunity will always be available whether it’s a fifth generation Baird or someone else because this is a Vermont Land Trust farm. I know it will always be a working farm and never be turned into acres of houses like you see the next valley over. That may be the best legacy of all.”