In 2017 the Whitcomb family celebrated 150 years of farming in the heart of Essex Junction. The Whitcombs raise about 500 Holsteins, 300 of which they milk at their Williston Farm. The Essex Junction land is used for crops and young cattle. They are often at the forefront of agricultural innovation. Recently they installed robotic milkers, and in 2001, they were named Vermont Dairy Farmers of the Year. The Whitcomb Farm has also been recognized as a Dairy of Distinction and for Winooski River conservation.
For the past several years, the family has been working with VLT to conserve their Essex Junction farmland. They conserved a part of the farm in 2014 and conserved a second part this October; all together the family has protected 410 acres.
“I don’t know what the future holds for the farm,” said Lorenzo Whitcomb about the decision. “We’re trying to keep our options open but building more houses is not one of those options. We’re willing to give that up.”
One-third of the land has prime-rated agricultural soils and in total, 300 acres have excellent farm soils. “A farm conservation project in the middle of such a densely settled area is a pretty rare project for us,” said VLT’s Al Karnatz. “A portion of the farm would be very valuable for development. Because this farm has the best type of farm soils found in Vermont, it’s important to protect it as a resource for future generations.”
“The Whitcomb Farm is the last remaining significant property in the village that has productive farmland and native habitat,” said George Tyler, village president. “Permanently protecting it ensures it will continue to contribute to our community’s rich diversity.”
The Winooski River runs along the farm. As part of the project, a portion of the riverside acreage is being allowed to naturally grow into trees and shrubs that will filter farm nutrients and reduce erosion. This area runs along one mile of the river. The farm also has seven acres of rare floodplain forest that are now protected.
Funded by VHCB (with matching funds from USDA NRCS), the Village of Essex Junction’s Land Acquisition Fund, and contributions from community members.