John and Carol Snow have owned property on the east side of Route 7 near the border with North Ferrisburgh since 1994. A few years ago, they subdivided their house, outbuildings and some of the acreage from the open farmland that spread from near Route 7 up toward Mt. Philo Road. Their hope was to create a lot that could be sold to a farmer and to see the land remain in agricultural use. “We learned,” John said, “that land does not keep itself open. It needs to be worked.”
Meanwhile, Bryan Seward and Katie Rose Leonard had been searching for land to become Katie Rose’s own farm, after several years of managing and working on farms for others.
“We’ve been searching for the perfect place to start a farm since my first growing season 7 years ago,” Leonard said. After meeting and discussing the possibilities, John and Carol realized they had found their farmer, and Katie Rose and Bryan knew they had found their farm. “As we reflected on our hopes for this land we realized that our vision of keeping it open and worked required some new partners who could share that vision. We found them in Bryan and Katie Rose,” Carol said.
The Charlotte Land Trust (CLT) and the Vermont Land Trust are working in partnership to conserve the Snows’ 71 acres of excellent farmland that is also a major portion of the Mt Philo viewshed. Other than a house for Bryan and Katie Rose that will be built on adjacent unconserved land, the farmland will be preserved for continued agricultural use. Major funding commitments have been received from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and the Town of Charlotte Conservation Fund. CLT is committed to raising $25,000 toward funding for the project in time for a closing in March.
The South Charlotte Farm and Viewshed Project is a striking example of the multiple benefits of land conservation. From the summit of Mt Philo, the most visited state park in Vermont, and from Mt Philo Road the view of the Snow property is a prominent part of the patchwork of fields, streams and woodland that compose this iconic Champlain Valley scene. Conservation will protect the scenic vistas of the property and its place in the larger viewshed. Almost the entire acreage to be conserved is ranked in the highest categories of agricultural soils. Conservation will also protect a small wooded section of the property traversed by a tributary of Kimball Brook with protection guidelines in the conservation easement specific to water quality and wildlife habitat.
Conservation is about preserving land, but it is also an economic driver. Conservation will make this land affordable enough for a young couple to purchase it as their first farm, becoming an important addition to the agricultural economy of Charlotte. Katie Rose will grow a diversified organic mix of produce and flowers. An existing farm structure on Route 7 is being converted to a farmstand. Katie Rose said, “For us, conserving this land is about ensuring it remains an active part of Charlotte’s incredible working landscape and is forever protected from over development. It’s also about accessibility for generations of farmers to come.”
More information about Katie Rose’s new farm can be found on the Head over Fields website. If you would like to help conserve this special land, donations for the project can be made to the Charlotte Land Trust, P.O. Box 43, Charlotte, VT 05445. Please donate online.