Zeb Swick and Samantha Duchaine are The Valley’s newest first-time farm owners thanks to a conservation easement placed on 50 acres of East Warren farmland in 2000. The farming couple are first-time farm owners of land they have been leasing from Anne Burling since 2016 for their Alpenglow Farm.
Working closely with Burling of Cambridge, MA, and the Vermont Land Trust, Swick and Duchaine of Alpenglow Farm purchased over 50 acres of farmland and forest behind East Warren Community Market where they currently run a small-scale, diversified farm. The appraised conservation value of the property is $100,000. The sale closed on August 27. The sale included the farmland plus 4.3 acres along Roxbury Mountain Road as well as 1.2 acres of land behind the East Warren market that is not subject to the conservation easement.
The land that Swick and Duchaine have purchased was originally part of the Elliott farm at the four corners in East Warren. Burling, an active supporter of local agriculture and the Mad River Valley community, has leased her land to farmers, hosted community gardens next to East Warren Community Market and provided access for Blueberry Lake ski trails.
Swick and Duchaine produce organic fruits and vegetables which they sell at East Warren Community Market and other local stores and use for their mobile smoothie enterprise, Root Juice. They also keep bees and run a tree nursery.
Burling wanted to make ownership possible for Swick and Duchaine and make sure the land would remain affordable for farming in the future, so she reached out to the Vermont Land Trust. The land trust’s Farmland Access Program helps entrepreneurial farmers find and purchase affordable farms of their own. Since the program began, the land trust has completed over 100 successful Farmland Access projects.
To facilitate the sale of her conserved land, Burling added a provision that allowed Zwick and Duchaine to buy the property at its agricultural value. The provision ensures the land will remain available for future farmers. Burling also donated conservation protections on additional land sold to the farmers which can be used for farmer housing. Finally, she increased protections for wetlands and streams on the property to support clean water and valuable habitat for wildlife.
“Purchasing this land has been a huge step toward making our farm successful,” said Swick. “It is extremely difficult for new farmers to find access to land, especially in an area like the Mad River Valley where land prices are high. Ownership now gives us the security to invest in our farm and make it more productive.”
The farmland conservation project was also supported by Warren, which contributed $7,500 to help cover costs associated with the conservation transaction.
“The Warren Conservation Commission is extremely pleased that our local farmland will permanently remain an active agricultural resource for The Valley,” said Jito Coleman, chair of the commission. “This [conservation project] provides long-term protection for the land and puts it in the hands of two committed, knowledgeable and hardworking farmers. We would also like to applaud Anne Burling for her vision and commitment to helping protect and utilize the full potential for the land.”
“We hope to continue what Anne started years ago, providing a hub for small, organic agriculture and a place for the local community to connect to the soil, food and each other,” added Swick.