HARDWICK — Tom and Janet Bellavance protected 91 acres of farmland, woods and wetlands on West Hill Road, the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) announced today. The Bellavances own and run Sunset Lake Farm, a dairy with 1,000 cows based in Alburgh that sells its milk through Dairy Farmers of America, a national co-operative of family dairy farms.
“We both believe strongly in VLT’s mission, and are so happy that this project came to fruition,” said Janet, who serves on the board of the South Burlington Land Trust. “I am comforted that these 91 acres will be forever conserved.”
The Bellavances have owned the land for many decades and use it to support their dairy. They hay about 40 acres on the property and pasture many of the cows from Sunset Lake on an adjacent parcel over the summer. In the future, they plan to also use the land to rotationally graze animals from Bellavance Beef, a grass-based beef operation run by their son, Ethan, and daughter-in-law, Caitlin.
The conservation easement for the newly protected parcel includes a special protection to keep it available to farmers in the future, as well as protections to support clean water and wildlife habitat.
Sunset Lake is adopting agricultural practices that are better for the environment, such as cover cropping, no-till planting, crop rotations and establishing buffers along streams. They also grow much of their own grain (reducing reliance on imported grains) and produce some of their energy onsite through solar.
This is the Bellavances’s fourth conservation project with VLT. In total, they have protected 305 acres in South Hero, Alburgh and Hardwick, and operate their dairy on 1,450 acres of conserved land.
A well-known name in Vermont agriculture, Tom Bellavance grew up farming in Hardwick. His father and grandfather were also dairy farmers. Under Tom’s ownership, the farm’s land base has expanded to over 1,700 acres.
In addition to running Sunset Lake Farm, Tom Bellavance has worked as an agricultural lender and consultant to many Northeast dairy farms for over 40 years. He served on the board of trustees of the Vermont Land Trust from 2000 to 2006, was a co-op director of the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery and currently serves on the board of directors of Dairy Farmers of America.
The Hardwick project was funded by the Freeman Foundation, which has a long history of supporting the protection of farms and forestland in the region. The Bellavances also contributed by donating a portion of the conservation value. To date, VLT has conserved 2,130 acres in Hardwick.