Riverview Farm has been in Michael and Denna Benjamin’s family since the 1940s. Located in Franklin on open land near the Canadian border, this well-run dairy is home to 550 Holsteins. In 2015, the Benjamins made many changes with an eye to the farm’s future. They bought an adjoining farm, built a new modern milking facility, added a manure digester, and enrolled the land in the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which helps keep water clean. They also decided to conserve the new land, along with their home farm, so they reached out to VLT.
“We really wanted our family land to stay productive in the agricultural sector,” explained Denna. “We didn’t want to see houses and development, we always wanted to see corn rows and open meadows. We feel proud to preserve a legacy of hard work and dirty fingernails.”
They protected 200 acres by selling a conservation easement. While they are passionate about keeping the farmland whole and protected for future farmers, the economic realities of the dairy industry also factored into their decision to conserve this year.
“With the financial struggle in the dairy industry putting us in a fight or flight situation, we needed to act,” added Denna. “Our options were to sell our farm and land outright and walk away, or conserve with the land trust and pray it kept us in our livelihood long enough to see the tides turn in the industry. We chose to fight. Because it’s our way of life, our happiness. Vermont Land Trust provided us the opportunity to keep our land intact, productive, and viable to see another day on the farm.”
Over half the property is made up of tillable and pasture land, with good agricultural soils. There are also two wetlands; logging and farm use will be limited in these areas. The Pike River and Mill Brook (the outflow of Lake Carmi) cross through the property for nearly a mile and a half. Land along the river and brook must remain forested, to protect wildlife habitat and support clean water in Lake Champlain.
“The Benjamins were early adopters of conservation practices,” said VLT’s Al Karnatz, “their farm’s proximity to Lake Carmi being one of the reasons. Clean water is important to them, and they try to minimize their farm’s impact and are involved in their local watershed action group. It’s great to see them expand and continue their good work.”