Vermont Land Trust needs $25,000 to pay off loan, keep Chester land under the plow

Tara and Greg Gomo and their 13-year-old daughter are in the process of purchasing Crow Hill Farm in Chester. Abby Rowlee Photo

The Vermont Land Trust (VLT) is asking for the community’s help to raise another $25,000 to conserve a 263-acre farm in Chester.

VLT purchased Crow Hill Farm on Flamstead Road in Chester with an $869,000 bridge loan in 2016. Now, VLT has until Aug. 15 to raise the remaining $25,000 to pay back the loan. So far, VLT has raised $491,000 from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service and $95,000 from private sources. 

“In this case, there was a gap, and we had to raise money privately,” said VLT Vice President for Community Relations Elise Annes.

Crow Hill Farm has been part of the Chester community for the past 68 years. It was owned by Donald and Helen Farrar until Helen died 2012 and Donald died in 2013.

The Farrars, who were long interested in conservation, reached out to Vermont Land Trust back in 1988 about putting a conservation easement on the property. 

“It’s really a core part of the community,” said Annes.

The easement will ensure Crow Hill Farm remains a farm indefinitely. 

The farm is part of VLT’s Farmland Access Program, which helps beginning farmers purchase agricultural land at reduced rates. 

VLT took eight proposals from farmers who were interested in purchasing Crow Hill. The organization looked for farmers who had at least three years of farming experience with plans to establish an agricultural enterprise that would make at least $100,000 a year within the first five years. 

Greg and Tara Gomo’s proposal for Crow Hill Farm stood out last year. The Gomos were already established in the area and had decades of farming experience.

“All of those things came together with them rising to the top,” said VLT Farmland Access Program Director John Ramsay. “We worked out an agreement that allowed them to get on the farm and get started.”

The Gomos have leased Crow Hill Farm, which includes a farmhouse, a dairy barn, garage, two equipment sheds and three small sheds from VLT since last summer. They plan to purchase it from VLT for $401,000 at the end of August.

“We wouldn’t be able to buy this land if it wasn’t for the land trust,” Greg Gomo said.

Gomo started working on an operation in Pomfret called the Moore Farm when he was 13 and continued working there through high school. Both he and his wife have been active in farming community since they moved to Chester around 2000.

“It’s just the whole way of life — being able to take care of animals and live off the land,” Greg Gomo said.

The Gomos have 20 beef cows, six pigs and 60 chickens at their Snow Top Farm. They sell beef, pork and chicken locally. They also raise Labrador retrievers and sell hay bales while their 13-year-old daughter rides horses at Crow Hill Farm.

“I always liked the property,” said Greg Gomo. “We had wanted to expand, and there’s really not a whole lot of area to expand where you can have pretty much everything in your dooryard.”

The Gomos both work full time in addition to farming. Greg works for the Chester highway department, while Tara is a nurse and supervisor at Mount Ascutney Hospital.

They eventually want to quit their jobs and farm full time, offering educational opportunities and a store on the farm.

“I’ve always done [farming],” said Greg Gomo.

The funds for the conservation easement need to be raised before the Gomos can purchase the land.

Ramsay was confident VLT would meet its $25,000 target by the Aug. 15 deadline. 

“We’re fully anticipating that we will meet our goal,” said Ramsay.

-- KATY SAVAGE
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