April 15, Vernon – Jeff Dunklee of Vern-Mont Farm worked with the Vermont Land Trust, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB), and the Town of Vernon to conserve 146 acres on the east side of Route 142 in Vernon.
Vern-Mont Farm is one of the largest dairies in southern Vermont; there are 625 Holsteins in the milking herd, and another 400 heifers and young stock. Over the past 150 years, five generations of the Dunklee family have run the farm. Jeff grew up there, working alongside his parents, Alfred and Martha.
The conservation of Vern-Mont Farm was initiated several years ago by Alfred, Martha, Jeff, and Jeff’s wife, Kelli.
“My family has been considering conservation of these parcels for several years,” said Jeff Dunklee. “We believe this land is also special to many Vernon residents.” The Dunklees own other conserved farmland in Vernon and nearby in Massachusetts.
The conservation protects 146 acres on two separate parcels from development and subdivision. With its proximity to the Connecticut River, the land has excellent farm soils. The land will always be available to farmers.
The Dunklees farm 900 acres, more than half of which they own. The fields are periodically rotated to grow corn, alfalfa, and cover crops. Their main source of income is from the sale of milk, but they also raise heifers for sale and produce corn silage for local farmers.
Vernon has long valued its farmland. In the 1980s, the town established the Vernon Farmland Protection Advisory Committee to map soils and conduct a land assessment. By 1982, Vernon also established a Farmland Protection Fund to help finance conservation easements on agricultural land. The Town of Vernon strongly supported this Vern-Mont Farm conservation. At Town Meeting 2019, voters approved $110,000 from the Farmland Protection Fund to help finance close to 20 percent of the cost of protecting the land.
“I’m so pleased we could help Jeff and Kelli and work with the town to protect this farm for future generations,” said Joan Weir of the Vermont Land Trust.
Crucial support also came from VHCB and a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service grant.
“We’re proud to be a partner in the protection of this important farmland in a community that values this resource,” said Nancy Everhart, agricultural director of VHCB. “At a time when dairy farms of all types and sizes are facing significant pressures, we appreciate the willingness of the Dunklees to permanently conserve their productive farm fields.”