Nearly 100 acres of wetlands and streams protected in Addison County

frontage along the Lemon Fair River conserved with water quality protectionsMonument Farms also conserved an additional 160 acres of farmland, all with help from state and federal investments

February 5, Weybridge, VT — Ninety-seven acres along the Lemon Fair River have been protected for water quality and wildlife habitat and 160 acres of adjacent farmland have been conserved, the Vermont Land Trust (VLT), Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB), and USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced today. The land along the river was enrolled in the NRCS ACEP Wetland Reserve Easement component.

A family-owned dairy and milk processing business since 1930, Monument Farms is the only large-scale milk processor in Vermont that sells milk exclusively from their own herd. They have 400 cows and 350 young stock. The milk and cream they produce are distributed throughout the region and sold at their on-farm store, a popular spot for the community and for visitors. Monument Farms now owns and stewards five conserved parcels in Weybridge.

“Over the past 20 years, Monument Farms has worked with the Vermont Land Trust, Vermont Housing & Conservation Board and the NRCS to conserve and protect the Lemon Fair waterway and farmland. Their funding and guidance have been instrumental in making this possible,” said Peter James of Monument Farms.

The land enrolled in the wetlands protection program is low-lying, adjacent to the Lemon Fair River, and subject to flooding. Under the new protections, this land will no longer be farmed. Instead, NRCS will work with Monument Farms to restore the floodplain to its natural state, which will help to retain floodwater and improve wildlife habitat.

This is the first time NRCS has worked with partners and producers to conserve one parcel with two separate easements, side by side but with different purposes.

“We are excited to partner with Monument Farms to help them achieve their water quality goals and restore wildlife habitat through the wetland reserve easement,” said Vermont NRCS State Conservationist Vicky Drew. “Private landowners, like Monument Farms, are essential partners in restoring wetlands and ensuring that wildlife, like bobcats, white-tailed deer and bears, have excellent habitat and can safely move across Vermont’s mosaic of farmland, forestland and developed areas.”

In addition, NRCS, VLT and VHCB partnered to protect 160 acres of adjacent farmland. This unique approach to protect the entire parcel allowed Monument farms to permanently set aside the least productive farmland and restore its wetland functions and values, but at the same time protect the valuable uplands from development and ensure it is set aside for farming into the future. “This was only possible through the innovative leadership of both our conservation partners and Monument Farms,” said Drew.

The conserved farmland also includes streams, including headwater tributaries of Beaver Brook and the Lemon Fair River. These will be enhanced through wooded areas along the banks that help to maintain water quality and provide crucial space for animals to move through the open farm fields in the area. The effort was funded in part by VHCB.

VHCB Executive Director Gus Seelig said, “Our board is pleased to support the conservation of this property and congratulates Monument Farms for their commitment to improving water quality by restoring a portion of the land to floodplain forest. Vermont is making substantial progress in reducing phosphorus run-off into our waterways and farmers are leading this effort with actions like this that protect and restore river frontage and wetlands.”

VLT Farm Project Director Al Karnatz said, “Monument Farms plays a significant role in Addison County’s rural economy. Their commitment to sustainable land use and to their community is exemplary. They’re constantly innovating to become more efficient and to become better environmental stewards. We’re thrilled to work with them and our partner organizations on water quality and the health of Vermont’s farmland.”