Driving north through Pawlet, Vermont on Route 133, you come around a bend and there it is: a majestic white dairy barn surrounded by green fields that climb steadily west. The barn and fields have been in Diane Butler’s family for generations.
Until recently, Diane and her husband, Seth, were raising their four children—Lily, Garrett, Nathan, and Noah—on a much smaller farm nearby. Though still young, the three oldest children were active participants, helping to raise the animals the family sold for meat. Seth and Diane watched as the kids developed a real passion for farming. “We could see that their interest in farming was real. It wasn’t just a whim,” says Diane. “They wanted to be involved and to do more, but our property would only allow for so much.”
When Diane’s grandmother, Norma Mason, passed away a few years ago the future of the larger family farm came into question. The property was left to Norma’s five children, none of whom were interested in farming. Motivated by their children’s love of farming, Diane and Seth bought the farm and conserved 270 acres with the Vermont Land Trust.
Dream Becomes a Reality
Twelve-year-old Nathan is pleased: “I like the opportunity to have more animals than we could previously,” he says. So is Garrett, who’s 14. “I prefer to be outside whenever possible,” he says, “and this property provides a lot to do outside in the fresh air.” He enjoys working with animals, putting up hay, cutting firewood, sawing lumber. And 15-year-old Lily is excited: “I spent a considerable amount of time here on the farm when I was younger… The idea of living and working here was just a dream. Now, having that dream become a reality… it’s really exciting!”
“It’s great that a beautiful farm like this could stay in the family to see a brighter future,” says VLT’s Donald Campbell. The conservation easement ensures that the land will never be developed and will always be available to future farmers.
Conservation was always part of the plan for Diane and Seth. “We’re just part-time stewards of this property,” says Seth. “We hope we’re going to be here a long time. We hope that the farm will continue with our children, but even if it doesn’t, it will continue as a farm and that’s really important to us.”
The significance of conserving the farm is not lost on the children—they see nearby land that’s divided up and developed. “I appreciate the beauty of the land, often running to get the camera to take pictures of scenes that you’d usually only see on postcards,” says Lily. “That beauty will remain and not be disturbed by development.”
Deep Roots Farm
The Butlers have aptly named their business Deep Roots Farm. With more land, they are expanding their operation and letting the children further explore their farming interests. Homeschooling the kids means there’s lots of hands-on education—in addition to learning to raise and sell pastured pork, meat chickens, grass-fed beef, and organic, soy-free eggs from pastured laying hens, the children research and experiment with farming techniques, such as rotational grazing, and have been studying organic and regenerative agriculture.
Looking to the future, the Butlers expect they will do more with produce, perhaps growing garlic, fruit trees, and berries. And, their vision is to make Deep Roots Farm a welcoming place for all to enjoy. “We want to share the beauty of the property and eventually allow people to come onto the farm safely and responsibly to see where their food comes from,” says Diane. “It’s a very peaceful place.”
Story by Joe Pasteris. Photo courtesy of the Butler Family. Funded by the Lookout Foundation and other private foundations.