“A big part of our original dream was farming IN Hinesburg. At the family farm in the village is where I learned to love farming by helping with sugaring in the spring and haying in the summer. Purchasing the O’Neil farm will be a homecoming for us – even though we only live a quarter mile from the town line into Charlotte. In addition to being in the “right” town, the O’Neil farm has a productive and substantial land base from which we can grow hay and pasture for our cows. This acquisition is the foundation for our future as dairy farmers.” ~Joe Donegan
O’Neil Farm – Hinesburg
During 2017 Hinesburg Land Trust (HLT) and the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) have been working with the O’Neil and Donegan families to conserve 259 acres of the former O’Neil farm. The land straddles the LaPlatte River and Leavensworth Road and has been farmed continuously for many years. The O’Neil family stopped farming 25 years ago, but since then several area farmers have productively used the land.
For the past eight years Joe and Emily Donegan have been managing their 80-acre organic dairy farm in Charlotte and leasing additional acreage in various locations needed to support their operation. The O’Neil property offers a unique opportunity for Joe and Emily to secure cropland adjacent to their existing farm and expand their 65-cow organic dairy. The fair market appraised value of this land as developable house lots is beyond the Donegans’ means but the cost is being reduced by restricting future development via a permanent conservation easement, which will be held by VLT. Conserving the land will allow the Donegans to purchase the land for its agricultural value only.
Once conserved, 135 acres comprising the prime and statewide agricultural soils will remain in crops. The remaining acreage will be protected in a river corridor easement and riparian buffer zones that will serve to ameliorate flooding, protect downstream water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat. Features of ecological significance include shrub wetlands, red maple-green ash swamp, silver maple-sensitive fern floodplain forest, and a large area of maple-ash-hickory-oak forest.
The VAST snowmobile trail will continue to offer recreational access to the property.
The total cost of permanently conserving the property is $473,000. Earlier this spring the VT Housing and Conservation Board awarded the project a $453,000 grant. The Town of Hinesburg has agreed to donate $10,000 from its Land Conservation Fund. The Hinesburg Land Trust is committed to raising $10,000 to support this project and we need your help!
Tax-exempt donations can be sent to the Hinesburg Land Trust, PO Box 137, Hinesburg, VT 05461. Any additional funds raised beyond the $10,000 will be designated for future conservation projects.