MARSHFIELD — After five years of farming on leased land, Elise Magnant and Kagen Dewey became first-time farm owners when they bought 78 acres of open and wooded land on Maple Hill Road in Marshfield, the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) announced today. Dewey and Magnant run Blackbird Organics and produce organic-certified vegetables. They bought the land from Dorigen Keeney who worked closely with them to establish vegetable production on the farmland, and to support their land purchase.
The new farm is just two miles from the land that Dewey and Magnant lease, and will continue to operate. “Thanks to VLT, we were lucky to find a property that worked for our business,” said Magnant, “without having to pivot to new markets or a new community – which was really great.”
Dewey and Magnant established Blackbird Organics in 2018. They had been looking for a farm of their own when VLT connected them to Dorigen Keeney, who was looking to sell the Marshfield land that was originally conserved in 2007. Formerly a working farm, the open land on the property had been used for hay by an area farmer for many decades.
Before closing on the sale, Magnant and Dewey began working the land in Marshfield, plowing fields and putting up a greenhouse for 2023 production. In the 2023 season, they grew a third of their product on the new land and piloted a CSA (community supported agriculture) program with pick-up at the Maple Hill farm. Next season, they plan to expand production and continue to sell to the Hunger Mountain and Plainfield Food Co-ops, and directly at the Montpelier Farmers’ Market. They also plan to grow their CSA program.
“In this competitive real estate market, it’s incredibly challenging for farmers to buy land,” said VLT’s Farmland Access Director, Maggie Donin. “In partnership with landowners like Dorigen, VLT is here to help farmers navigate this landscape and access land more affordably.”
To make the purchase more affordable for Dewey and Magnant, Keeney strengthened the conservation easement that protects the farmland. The easement now ensures that the farmland will always remain available, and more affordable, to working farmers. She then sold the land to Dewey and Magnant this fall.
“Without the land trust and especially the [added protection to keep farmland available for farmers], financially speaking, land like this is not accessible to young farmers,” said Dewey. “That’s very much a reality. And because the land trust is going to be around forever, it guarantees that when it comes our turn to retire, we’re going to do the same thing – and this land will be financially accessible to the next generation of farmers after us.”
Dewey and Magnant also credit Becky Madden of UVM Extension and Nikki Lennart, who is a Farm Business Specialist at the Intervale, with providing valuable support as they establish operations on Maple Hill and plan for the future.