Large Sugaring Operation in Upper Valley Conserves Land

January 8, 2020 Sharon — Arthur Berndt of Maverick Farm conserved 564 acres of mostly forested land, the Vermont Land Trust announced today. A 23,000-tap sugarbush with valuable wildlife habitat—including a large vernal pool and streams that flow into the White River—has been protected from development.

The property lies in Sharon on the Pomfret line, near Interstate 89. Once one of the largest sugaring operations in the state, Maverick Farm is owned and operated by Berndt. He and his late wife, Anne Berndt, began working the land in 1988 and received organic certification as early as 1991.

Berndt said he and Anne discussed conservation for many years and that it was Anne’s dream to protect their property. “It all feels satisfying; it feels really good to conserve our land. My wife would be happy,” he said.

Berndt also said he worked with the Vermont Land Trust to preserve the opportunity for future sugaring on the property. He is considering leasing the sugarbush while transitioning out of the active business.

Last year the sugarbush produced 13,000 gallons of certified organic maple syrup sold in bulk to Butternut Mountain Farm, a large maple processor and distributor in northern Vermont that ships products worldwide.

“[Arthur] pioneered using high-quality equipment,” said David Marvin, owner of Butternut Mountain Farm, who has worked with Berndt for nearly 30 years. “[Maverick Farm is] a very productive farm with good soils … and has been managed to produce economic value.”

The conservation was funded by a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Gus Seelig, Executive Director, said, “VHCB is proud to support the protection of the Maverick Farm woodlands and we appreciate the significant amount of leverage brought to the project. Conservation will protect water quality and wildlife habitat, assist with the owner’s retirement planning, and make the land more affordable to a future owner.”

The property includes several wetlands, a large vernal pool where signs of spotted salamanders and wood frogs have been found, and perennial streams. To protect wildlife habitat, activities to manage the woods and sugarbush are restricted within these areas.

“The Berndts have championed conservation and environmental causes for decades,” said Bob Linck of the Vermont Land Trust. “It was our pleasure to help them carry out their goal of permanently conserving the land closest to their hearts.”