In 1871, Jeff Dunklee’s great-great-grandfather bought land to farm on the far-southern border of Vermont. With its proximity to the Connecticut River, the rich loamy soils held the promise of supporting generations of farmers to come. Today, Jeff and his family are the fifth generation of Dunklees to farm and steward these fields. They run Vern-Mont Farm, one of the largest dairies in southern Vermont, with more than 600 milkers and 400 heifers. The business supplements income from milk production with the sale of young heifers and corn silage to local farmers.
Jeff, his parents, and his wife, Kelli, have been working with VLT and the Town of Vernon to conserve their land for years; the first step was completed in 2018 when the family protected 71 acres. This year, they conserved an additional 146 acres, just east of Route 142.
“We believe this land is also special to many Vernon residents,” said Jeff. Many residents seem to agree; at town meeting this year, voters approved $110,000 from the town’s Farmland Protection Fund to help finance the conservation of the farmland.
The land has a short stretch of riverbank along the Connecticut River along with some wetlands. As part of this project, a 50-foot buffer area of trees and shrubs was designated along this stretch of riverbank. Natural vegetation along rivers and streams helps reduce downstream damage from floods and prevents erosion and promotes clean water.
Funded by VHCB (with matching funds from USDA NRCS), and the Vernon Farmland Protection Fund.