July 15, Rockingham – Long-time farmers Richard and Barbara Stickney worked with the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) to protect 257 acres of farmland and woodland in Rockingham. The conserved land, lying on both sides of Pleasant Valley Road, is now protected from development and subdivision. The property has excellent farm soils and a 2,300-tap sugarbush. The land will always be available to farmers.

The Stickney Farm has been owned by the family since 1897, supplying butter and maple sugar to the Bellows Falls area. Richard returned to his family’s farm after attending college and serving in the military in the 1950s. Together with Barbara and their children, he operated the dairy and sugared. Their son, Pete, joined the farm in 1981 and milked cows with his father until he left to manage Elm Lea Farm at The Putney School. In 1996, Richard sold the cows and focused instead on growing hay and corn, boarding and raising heifers, and sugaring.

Richard and Barbara have decided to retire and transfer the farm to the next generation. Their grandson, Robert Stickney, will take over the business through a lease-to-purchase arrangement. “We’re excited that the farm will remain in agriculture and stay in the family for another generation,” said Richard. “Robert is the sixth generation to operate the Stickney Farm, and there is another generation in sight with his two children.”

Growing up, Robert worked on the farm with his family and will continue the same successful operation. He plans to expand the farm with cattle boarding and increase corn silage and hay production. The sugarbush will be leased to a family member for a few years, while Robert focuses on the beef operation.

Robert enrolled in the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program of the VHCB, and the program matched him with Kevin Channell of the Intervale Center to work on the business plan for the farm. “The business plan assistance from VHCB and working with Kevin Channell was the best thing that could have happened,” said Robert.

The Stickneys have been working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to adapt their farming to benefit soils and water, and the conservation agreement will further support clean water and habitat for wildlife. The farm has several tributaries of the Williams River and 15 acres of wetlands.

“The Stickney Farm is one of the last remaining farms in Rockingham,” explained Joan Weir of the Vermont Land Trust, “and a recent town plan identified conservation of farmland and forest as an important step toward ensuring the continuation of the working landscape. It’s great that Richard and Barbara have protected their farm and turned over the reins to their grandson.”

Crucial funding for the project also came from a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service grant.