Pine Island Community Farm
Pine Island Community Farm in Colchester is a place where New Americans (former refugees) can raise culturally significant foods and connect with the land. The farm is owned by the Vermont Land Trust and is home to multiple farm businesses and community gardens.
What is Pine Island Farm?
Pine Island Farm was purchased by the Vermont Land Trust in 2012 and began with a Bhutanese farmer raising 80 meat goats as part of a pilot program.
Today, that farmer is raising 300 goats. There is a chicken farmer from Rwanda, who sells 1,000 chickens annually, two Burundian beekeepers, and 60 families from 10+ countries who use the community gardens. More than 300 families a year come to buy a chicken or goat and slaughter it according to their cultural preferences in our custom facility.
Many of the people who come here as refugees have deep agricultural roots. Pine Island provides a place where people can access animals, open pastures, and fertile soil. It offers land to produce food that can otherwise be difficult or expensive to obtain. It gives people an opportunity to build on their agricultural past and experience a Vermont that feels more like home.
Pine Island operates as a collaborative with four farm enterprises run by separate owners. Together, the businesses share land, infrastructure, and equipment. The Vermont Land Trust is working with the Intervale Center to support new American farmers as they build management skills that will ensure the farm’s long-term sustainability.
The Business on Pine Island Farm
Chuda and Gita Dhaurali raise more than 300 meat goats per year. The majority of the goats are discarded newborn males bought at low cost from Vermont cheesemakers. Originally from Bhutan, where Chuda’s father had a large farm, Chuda and Gita spent nearly 20 years in a refugee camp in Nepal before being resettled to Burlington in 2009. The Dhauralis, along with their two daughters, rent the farmhouse. They own and manage their herd and share barn space, pastures, and major equipment with others on the farm.
In 2015, Pine Island started selling laying hens past their prime that came from area egg producers in response to the demand from the new American community. The chicken operation, run by Theogene and Hyacinthe Mahoro, expanded to raising meat birds in 2016. By 2018, the Mahoros hope to have 3,000 birds and an improved indoor processing facility. Originally from Rwanda, Theogene and Hyacinthe arrived under the refugee resettlement program in 2004. They live with their children on the property.
New American families use a seven-acre community garden to grow vegetables. In 2017, 56 families gardened on 1/8-acre plots, and three families had commercial 1/2-acre plots. There is also a plot used by clients of the Howard Center. Gardeners save an average of $3,500 a year on food. The garden area is organized by language or nationality to ease collaboration. The groups include Somali Bantu, Bhutanese, and a group speaking Swahili and French. Garden leaders meet to plan, share updates, and address issues.
A pilot beekeeping collaborative was launched in 2016 to provide honey and improve pollination on the farm. The farm purchased the bees, hives, and other supplies for two of the three beekeepers. Management of the four hives including all labor, care, and costs needed to raise the bees is taken care of by the beekeepers: Dr. Jean-Marie Mujakazi, Franҫois Gasaba, and Amy Kirk.
- 230 acres, including 80 acres of hayland and pasture along the Winooski River
- 8 acres of tillable soil for crops
- farm buildings, a slaughter facility, two residences for farm families,
- wetlands, floodplain, and forest undergoing ecological restoration