Hank Dimuzio didn’t follow a typical path to become a farmer. For over 20 years he built up what is now the largest deer farm in the state while working as an emergency room physician at Rutland Regional Medical Center. In 2016, he retired from the hospital to pursue farming full time.
The deer at LedgEnd Farm are Fallow deer, which originate in Europe. They are one of four deer species that can be raised in Vermont. “Fallow deer are a good choice for Vermont, as their native habitat is very similar to this state,” explains Hank. “They are disease resistant and very beautiful in my opinion.”
Hank Dimuzio and his wife, Rhonda Roberts, worked with VLT to conserve 132 acres, 28 of which have rare clayplain forest. These forests used to be common across the Champlain Valley but are now rare; what remains is important for wildlife and biodiversity, especially with our changing climate.
When asked about why he conserved the land, Hank said that he grew up in a section of Philadelphia that was near a large park, an agricultural school and farmland. “I watched it all go under; the school is still there, but the barns became antique stores.” He later moved to Vermont and started to see some of the same type of development happening here.
“You have to have towns, woodland, and farms,” he says. “Humans need this open land; they need to look at farmland. You also need farmland that’s affordable.”
While Vermont leads the nation in local food consumption, Hank says deer farming is “not for the fainthearted… there’s not really an established market; you have to make your own market.”
To achieve this, Hank sells direct from the farm and to restaurants such as Great Northern, Hen of the Wood, Waybury Inn, and Starry Night Café. “When I talk to people about marketing venison I say: ‘Find your chef, know your chef. They decide if venison is on the menu’.” LedgEnd venison can also be found at Greg’s Meat Market in Middlebury and seasonally at Healthy Living and the Warren Store.
Funded by the Town of Middlebury and the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, with matching funds from USDA-NRCS.