For four generations, the families of Stephanie and Seth Pope have farmed near the shore of Lake Champlain in central Addison County. “We grew up working beside our parents,” Stephanie says. “It’s in our blood and we love it.”
The Popes run North Wind Acres dairy on VLT-conserved land in Shoreham; they sell milk to Cabot Creamery. They also work on Stephanie’s parents’ farm in neighboring Bridport, another Cabot supplier. Between both farms, nearly 600 cows are milked daily.
In planning for the family’s future, the couple decided to buy 347 acres of farmland in Bridport that the family had rented in the past. They needed help to make this happen. So, Seth and Stephanie, Stephanie’s parents, Sherry and Steven Ouellette, and her brother, Aaron, bought the property together. They also reached out to VLT about conserving the new farmland.
Selling the conservation easement to VLT helped the family buy the farm. “We would not have been able to afford this place without the land trust,” Stephanie explained. “We really believe in preserving the ag land and preserving the ag landscape.” Stephanie, Seth, and their sons, 6-year-old Rowdy and 4-year-old Remy, now live on the new land—land Stephanie has known since childhood. “The funny thing is we used to rent this farm… so we were very familiar with the land,” she said.
The Popes employ eight full-time staff year-round and during the summer they hire seasonal workers to harvest crops. “Once we hire someone, they’re like family,” Stephanie said.
Stephanie and Seth are eager to preserve their rural way of life and give their boys opportunity to follow in their parents’ footsteps if they so choose. The kids have time to weigh their options, but they’re already resident experts.
“If you came here and met my boys, they could totally give you a tour and tell you what’s what,” Stephanie says with a laugh. “They’re with us all the time. They go to the barn and ride on the equipment in the summer. My mom watches them when we have to be in the barn and it’s not safe for them. It’s a family affair at our place and all-hands-on-deck, even if it’s just watching the kids.”
“Both sides of the family have long histories of conserving farmland,” said VLT’s Al Karnatz. “Seth’s parents first conserved land in 1995, and Stephanie’s parents in 2002. Now the next generation is following their lead.”
With help from VLT, the families’ time-honored farming legacy endures, giving Stephanie and Seth’s young sons the kinds of childhood experiences that helped shape their parents.
Story written by Lynn Adamo. Photo by A + W Photo Design.