Tanya Tolchin and Scott Hertzberg first met in college in Massachusetts. They shared a love of growing local food and being on the land. They worked on farms in Connecticut, England, and Israel before starting their own farm in Maryland, where they grew organic vegetables and flowers and ran a CSA with up to 100 shares.
Over half the land they farmed in Maryland was leased. They had to drive and move equipment between three locations. Building soil health, installing irrigation systems, and constructing farm buildings were hard, because they didn’t know if they would lose access to the land. So, they began to look elsewhere.
“We’re both first-generation farmers,” explained Tanya. “We were looking for years for a farm. I’m originally from Connecticut and wanted to be back in New England. When we learned about the Vermont Land Trust, we started looking in Vermont. The land trust really had the farm affordability piece thought through. You can’t just protect a property, you need to make sure that farmers will be able to farm it.”
Tanya and Scott signed up for VLT’s Farmland Access Program, which eventually connected them to 48 acres in West Haven owned by Rick and Ali Wilson. The Wilsons had used the land for growing vegetables. When they decided it was time to sell, they reached out to VLT because they wanted to make sure the farm would remain in production and that it would be protected from development. The property was permanently conserved when it was sold to Scott and Tanya.
“We hear from many farmers who want, and need, the permanence that comes from owning the land that is your business,” explained VLT’s Donald Campbell. “Ownership allows them to make long-term investments that improve both the farm and the business.”
Tanya and Scott’s new operation in Vermont, called Otter Point Farm, has made rapid progress. They moved to the farm in January and were selling their first crops at farmers’ markets by July 4. “The land is so productive, even with the dry summer we had much more production per acre than we had anticipated,” explained Scott.
The previous owners had made many improvements, including adding wells and hoophouses, planting cover crops, and clearing field edges. Tanya and Scott are planning on additional unheated hoophouses, which will give them more space for tomatoes and winter greens and help with crop rotation. “We want to farm organically and pay attention to soil health. We hope to produce enough to sell food affordably and move into farm-to-school sales. We really care about healthy nutritious food for all,” said Tanya.
Funded by VHCB (with matching funds from USDA NRCS). (October 2018)