Wednesday May 15, 2013

DUMMERSTON -- For sale: A 169-acre farm including two-story home, greenhouse and antique barn along with small orchard and maple sugarbush; has been described as a "historical piece of Dummerston."

Vermont Land Trust administrators are hoping that description will bring potential farm owners to an open house Saturday at the Cassidy Farm off Bunker Road and Miller Road.

The farm is offered at a discounted, "conserved-value" price of $375,000, and the land trust is seeking detailed proposals by June 20. The successful bidder won’t take ownership of the property immediately, but he or she will be able to live on and work the land this summer under an interim-lease and sale agreement.

"We’d like to get them farming and living in the house" this year, said Joan Weir, the land trust’s southeast regional director.

Weir said she became aware last year that the property, also known as the Bunker Farm, might be available for sale. Taking a proactive approach to conserving valuable agricultural land, she contacted the owners.

"We’ve spent the last year working together to do the appraisal work and decide how the land will be subdivided," Weir said.

The land trust has a contract to buy the farm, and administrators expect to close on the property next month, she added.

In the meantime, the trust has begun searching for buyers. Saturday’s open house is scheduled from 10 a.m.


Advertisement

to 2 p.m.; another open house is scheduled for May 22, also from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

More information about the farm, including a satellite map, a soil map, land-trust contact information and a detailed request for proposals, is available at www.vlt.org.

Land trust administrators say the farm "has been active for decades with a variety of tenant farmers including dairy farmers, a cheese maker and several vegetable producers."

The property consists of 50 tillable acres, 12 acres of pasture and 105 wooded acres. Other features include:

-- Two-story, 2,252-square-foot farmhouse with four bedrooms.

-- Greenhouse on a gravel foundation.

-- Equipment shed with water and electricity.

-- Antique barn.

-- Loafing shed.

-- An additional small shed and sugarhouse.

"It’s a terrific property. It’s very scenic," Weir said. "A lot of people identify with it."

In order to protect that scenic property, the plan is for Vermont Land Trust to sell the farm subject to a "perpetual farmland-conservation easement." That agreement will allow the trust to repurchase the farm at its agricultural value if the buyer or a future owner tries to sell the property to a non-farmer.

Interested buyers -- who would be expected to take ownership of the farm in late 2013 or early 2014 -- will have to undergo a vetting process that includes submission of financial documentation and a preliminary land-use plan. Trust administrators say they will consider the "willingness of the buyer to meet our asking price" as well as the proposed farming business’ suitability and feasibility.

"We’re hoping to make a decision by July 1," Weir said.

Once that decision is made, the land trust will undertake a fund-raiser to help pay for the project. Weir said the trust is offering the farm at a conserved value, which is less than market value.

"We have to make up the difference, and we have to cover our project costs," she said.

At a recent Dummerston Selectboard meeting, members of the town’s Farmland Protection Committee praised the proposed Cassidy Farm deal.

"It’s a funding plan that was put together that, I think, will keep a lot of people happy and will show other farmers that you don’t have to sacrifice your equity to save your land," committee member Jack Manix said. "I think this is a really well-rounded program that satisfies the land owner and hopefully will satisfy the farmer."

He recommended that the town eventually contribute to the project from its Farmland Protection Fund.

"There will be some private funding and some campaigns to raise public funds," Manix told Selectboard members. "So we’ll get to see who in town is really supportive of open lands, and (it’s) a chance to take this beautiful farm and protect it forever. It’s sort of a cornerstone, I think, and a nice historical piece of Dummerston and a really beautiful spot."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.