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Ploughgate Creamery closes on Bragg Farm conservation project

It was over a year in the making: The Vermont Land Trust has permanently conserved the Bragg Farm in Fayston and has sold the property to Marisa Mauro of Ploughgate Creamery.

The sale closed on Tuesday, December 3.

The farm, purchased by the land trust in August 2012 for $760,000, was sold to Ploughgate Creamery for its agricultural value of $165,000. The Bragg Farm was sold subject to a conservation easement, which will permanently protect the farm from development while providing for the productive agricultural use of the land and its continued affordability to farmers growing food or fiber.

"This is a very exciting and much anticipated day," said Liza Walker, Mad River Valley director for the Vermont Land Trust. "With this achievement, we can celebrate the promising future of one of The Valley's historic hill farms and look forward to Ploughgate Creamery's contribution to local food in our community and Vermont."

The Bragg Farm conservation project was funded by a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, a contribution from Fayston's Conservation Reserve Fund and more than 225 donors who provided essential support for the purchase of a conservation easement on the land.

The Bragg Farm adds to more than 9,500 acres of forestland and farms in The Valley conserved by the Vermont Land Trust in cooperation with the Mad River Watershed Conservation Partnership. The Valley's conservation legacy includes town forests in Fayston, Waitsfield and Moretown, new additions to Camel's Hump State Forest, family-owned lands with wildlife habitat and recreational trails, and numerous working farms that sustain The Valley's productive and scenic agricultural landscape.

"The Mad River Valley has long recognized the role of land conservation in planning for the thoughtful growth and vitality of the community," said Joshua Schwartz of the Mad River Valley Planning District. "The protection of productive agricultural land, especially above flood-prone areas, is particularly important to the resilience of local food production, a very promising sector of the Mad River Valley's economy."

According to Walker, the Bragg Farm project exemplifies the land trust's Farmland Access Program, which connects aspiring and qualified farmers with an opportunity to purchase a farm at its agricultural value.

"Marisa Mauro of Ploughgate Creamery was a great match for this program, explained Jon Ramsay, director of VLT's Farmland Access Program. It takes a tremendous amount of determination to begin a new agricultural enterprise; providing affordable access to land is one important way we can support farmers and ensure the viability of agriculture in Vermont."

With the conservation effort complete, Mauro will continue her efforts to transform the farm into an efficient and modern dairy facility. The new creamery, now under construction at the south end of the barn, will serve as the facility for Ploughgate's production of artisanal butter and fresh cheeses.

"As soon as the creamery is ready, I can buy the cows and bring them home to Bragg Hill," said Mauro. "I can't wait."


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