By Kara Herlihy
The Vermont Land Trust is in the process of purchasing the development rights to the 102-acre Bruce Farm located on Route 100B approximately two miles south of Middlesex in Moretown. The parcel will be conserved for agricultural use.
The sale of the farm to the Lacroix family is contingent upon the VLT's ability to purchase the development rights, which is further dependent on securing grant funding from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB).
VHCB's Farmland Conservation grants are awarded on a very competitive basis, according to VLT's regional director of the Mad River Watershed, Liza Walker.
"Hopefully they'll be supportive of the farm project," she continued.
In order to secure grant funding from VHCB, the VLT will have to raise matching funds, which for the loan, could equal approximately $50,000. "This is not a done deal," Walker added. "We still have to secure financing," she continued.
The farm has been in the Bruce name for over 100 years, according to Walker; when the Bruce's father passed away, his three sons sought VLT's services, rather than put the property on the market.
"It's something my father would have wanted," said current owner Ronald Bruce. "He would want to see it conserved, rather than developed."
Through word of mouth, the Lacroixes learned that the property might be in transition and contacted the Bruce family. After determining that their "visions for the land were similar," according to Walker, they started the extensive process with the VLT's aid.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for Moretown, that doesn't already have the locally grown food that exists in the rest of The Valley" Walker said. She continued, "It could make a huge impact on the northern end of The Valley."
IN THE CORRIDOR
Walker also said that when the Scenic Byway was established, the plans called for the protection of agricultural land in the corridor.
"Advancing this project will help to address the community's goals for the corridor" Walker said.
The VLT "will be looking for a lot of support from neighbors and the community" to raise the matching funds necessary to secure VHCB grant funding, she continued.
Walker was present at the July 7 meeting of the Moretown Select Board to request a letter of support; she also asked the same of the Planning Commission at their July 7 meeting.
The VLT plans to purchase the development rights (contingent upon funding) for the farm acreage and wood lots to help the Lacroix's establish a "working viable farm," according to Moretown Planning Commission minutes.
The entire parcel would be a permanent conservation easement split between the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) and the Vermont Land Trust (VLT). VLT has set out to raises funding in the range of $100,000 for the development.
Currently, the VHCB has an easement on the 46 agricultural acres and grants are pending. Both the Moretown Select Board and Planning Commission have signed letters in support of the VLT's initiative.
"It's an exciting project. We have the opportunity to protect farmland and secure more locally grown food." Walker said. "We're very much hoping its going to work out," she continued.