Local farmers Sebastian and Heather von Trapp along with Georgia von Trapp and Joey Nagy have been selected by Vermont Land Trust (VLT) to revive a Tenney hill farm on Marble Hill Road in Fayston. Following a review of more than 14 proposals, Vermont Land Trust and the Mad River Watershed Conservation Partnership selected the local farmers to purchase the 283-acre conserved farm.
The von Trapp and Nagy families plan to establish a diversified agricultural operation featuring heifers, chickens, whey-fed pigs and specialty produce to support their two existing Valley-based farm and food businesses.
"The families' already successful, local food enterprises – von Trapp Farmstead artisan, organic cheese and Mad Taco restaurants – are emblematic of the innovative and community-oriented ventures that Vermont residents and visitors alike have come to expect from the Mad River Valley," said Liza Walker, Mad River Valley director for Vermont Land Trust.
"We are extremely grateful and excited to be given the chance to purchase this property," said Sebastian von Trapp. "This opportunity will allow us to realize many of our shared life goals and ambitions. As new stewards of the land we are committed to improving the productivity of the farm while maintaining and conserving the property as a whole."
The 283-acre property on Marble Hill Road includes of 30 acres of farmland and 253 acres of forestland, including a 53-acre sugar bush that will continue to be leased for maple syrup production. The property was donated to Vermont Land Trust in December 2013 by longtime owners, Skip and Peggy Tenney, to enable its long-term protection and productive agricultural use.
The property, which until 1960 was operated as two adjoining family farms, will be shared by the von Trapp and Nagy families. The existing white farmhouse will serve as one homestead and the primary site for future farm structures. A second home will be constructed closer to the site of the upper red house which was recently removed by Deconstruction Works, with its materials salvaged and sold, primarily for reuse in other historic barns in Waitsfield and Charlotte.
The property is traversed by the Catamount Trail and additional trails used and managed by the Mad River Path Association and Mad River Riders. The farm will be sold for its appraised, agricultural value, subject to a conservation easement which will permanently protect the property from subdivision and development.
Easements held by Catamount Trail Association and the Mad River Path Association will ensure permanent public access to four-season, multi-use trails which connect Fayston's Chase Brook Forest to an expansive trail network on adjoining private and public lands surrounding Camel's Hump State Forest.
The land trust solicited proposals for the farm's future from interested and qualified farmers through its Farmland Access Program. Candidates presented a concept for a viable agricultural enterprise and forest stewardship, with support for public use of recreational trails on the property. The applicants carefully considered the property's history, soil conditions, elevation and aspect and proposed a variety of land uses, from fruit and flower crops and forest products to pastured poultry, lamb or beef and envisioned opportunities for educational uses and programming.
"We appreciate the tremendous enthusiasm of many farm seekers from within the Mad River Valley community and beyond who shared their dreams for farming and strengthening the community connection to this special property," said Walker.
"Our selection of the von Trapp and Nagy families reflects Vermont Land Trust and the Mad River Watershed Partnership's consideration of their demonstrated commitment to the Mad River Valley, business experience and capacity to skillfully renew the productivity of the land, while at the same time stewarding the property's extensive scenic, ecological and recreational resources," she continued.
The farm on Marble Hill will provide von Trapp Farmstead and The Mad Taco restaurants with opportunities to strengthen their existing businesses in the Mad River Valley. For von Trapp Farmstead, which produces small-batch artisan cheese from organic milk produced on Martin and Kelly von Trapp's Waitsfield farm, the farm will provide additional pasture which can be certified as organic for heifers and enable Sebastian von Trapp to increase cheese production.
Pigs will be raised on the land as needed to help restore the fertility and productivity of pastures and then sold to Vermont Whey Fed Pigs, a business enterprise of Sebastian von Trapp and Ignacio Villa.
For Joey Nagy and Georgia von Trapp, who own and operate The Mad Taco restaurants, the farm presents an opportunity to secure their access to large quantities of fresh and value-added ingredients essential to the restaurants' Mexican cuisine, such as fire-roasted tomatillos, cilantro, jalapeños and habanero peppers, as well as pork and poultry.
For siblings Georgia and Sebastian von Trapp, who grew up on the family's dairy farm in Waitsfield, and their spouses Joey Nagy and Heather von Trapp, shared ownership of the Fayston farm offers a unique opportunity to bring together complementary agricultural endeavors, entrepreneurial skills and community partnerships to successfully restore a long-fallow hill farm.
"Both of our families are looking forward to raising our children on this property as well as engaging the local community with access to new recreational trails," said Sebastian von Trapp.