Norwich Farm Foundation buys creamery at Vermont Technical College

Farmers Chris Gray, left, and Laura Brown in one of the empty barns at the Norwich Farm Creamery in Norwich on March 15. Photo by Glenn Russell / VTDigger

A new purchase agreement between the Norwich Farm Foundation and Vermont Technical College would allow the Norwich Farm Creamery to remain in place.

The deal comes after a long-standing dispute between farmers and Vermont Technical College, which is part of the Vermont State Colleges System. A five-year lease between the college and the farmers ended in June, and the college attempted to evict the farmers from the property.

Farmers Chris Gray and Laura Brown began renting out the property in 2015, with the goal of working with the college on a joint venture to deliver a student dairy education program. The collaboration collapsed the following year.

Last spring, the couple sued the Vermont State Colleges System, alleging the college had distorted its intentions with the property and undermined the project.

The Norwich Farm Foundation was formed to support the farm and ensure that the property would not be developed further. He made a total of six offers in college, ultimately landing a purchase price of $ 1,065,000 over the past two weeks, said Kate Barlow, president of the foundation.

The deal depends on the foundation’s ability to raise $ 250,000 over the next four months to support the sale and fund the Norwich Farm Foundation’s plan to build a stand-alone operation. Community members have already pledged that amount, said Barlow.

“We’re very excited, but this is just the start of the journey for the foundation because we have a lot of work to do, a lot of dollars to raise,” said Barlow.

Despite the disagreement between the farmers and Vermont Technical College, Patricia Moulton, the college president, said she was “happy to have a buy and sell agreement with the Norwich Farm Foundation”. The college will work to close in the coming weeks.

“This is a time to celebrate the community’s collaboration to support local dairy and agriculture within the Vermont economy,” she said in a statement to VTDigger.

Norwich Farm Creamery produces ricotta cheese, yogurt, milk, ice cream and other dairy products and sells them in its farm store and other local retail stores. Under the new model, the dairy, a private entity, would dissolve and become part of the foundation, which awaits its 501 (c) (3) nonprofit status.

Although the foundation “formed as a group of community members who wanted to save our town’s last dairy farm,” said Barlow, its new goal is to build an operation that could serve as a model for others. Northeastern farms.

“This kind of property is exactly what they’re trying to showcase in Vermont,” she said.

Over the next five years, the foundation plans to help farmers increase production from 150,000 pounds of grass-fed local dairy products in 2020 to more than 350,000 pounds per year, according to an announcement regarding the deal. . He also plans to organize educational and other programs for Norwich and the upper valley.

In recent years, farmers have trucked milk from Billings Farm to Woodstock, Barlow said. Within two years, the foundation plans to bring cows back to the farm.

The goal is to build a herd of 25 dairy animals, Gray said.

“At this scale, the whole system, the cash flow, is sustainable enough for two families and everyone, from a staff perspective that is needed to operate at this scale,” he said. .

The creamery, Gray said, has “sold everything we produce every week.”

“Due to some of the uncertainty of the past few years, we haven’t been able to expand our production targets to where we really need to be,” Gray said.

Now that “the train is on the right track,” he said, the dairy can continue to expand.

Barlow said she expects the purchase of the farm to end in late spring 2022.

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Filed under:

Business and Economy

Tags: Chris Gray, dairy farmers, dairy farming, dairy farms, Kate Barlow, Laura Brown, Norwich Farm Creamery, Norwich Farm Foundation, Vermont State Colleges, Vermont Technical College

Emma Cotton

About Emma

Emma Cotton is a member of the Report for America body which covers the environment, climate change, energy and agriculture. Previously, she covered Rutland and Bennington counties for VTDigger, wrote for the Addison Independent and was associate editor of Vermont Sports and VT Ski + Ride magazines. Emma studied marine science and journalism at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

E-mail: [email protected]

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