A 280-acre hill farm in Fayston is being revived as a working farm. Mad River Valley-based farmers and food entrepreneurs Sebastian von Trapp, Georgia von Trapp, and Joey Nagy purchased the former Tenney farm from the Vermont Land Trust on Friday, January 22, 2016.
The project permanently protects a section of the Catamount Trail and other four-season recreation trails managed by the Mad River Path Association and the Mad River Riders, a chapter of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association. These contribute to an expansive network of trails in Fayston’s Chase Brook Forest, the Howe Block of Camel’s Hump State Forest and on adjoining properties where landowners have welcomed public use of trails.
“The Catamount Trail has crossed the Tenney farm property for many years; however, until now, the trail has not benefited from any legal protection,” said Amy Kelsey, executive director of the Catamount Trail Association.
The 280-acre farm had been donated to the land trust in 2014 by Skip Tenney, who had owned the property for more than 50 years. Through its Farmland Access Program, the Vermont Land Trust conducted a farmer search and selected the von Trapp and Nagy partnership to purchase the Tenney farm. The Tenney farm was sold to the two-family partnership, Marble Hill Farm LLC, for its appraised agricultural value of $225,000.
The land is subject to perpetual conservation and trail easements which will protect farmland, forestland, a sugarbush, recreation trails, wildlife habitat and streams and wetlands.
“This exciting land conservation project is possible because of the generosity of Skip Tenney and his goal of returning his farm to active production, the vision of the von Trapp and Nagy families and the community’s commitment to its working and recreational landscape,” said Eliza Walker of the Vermont Land Trust.
Nagy and the von Trapps will soon begin to restore the Tenney farm’s productivity for agriculture: rebuilding soil fertility, reclaiming pasture, installing fences and improving the barns and the circa-1850 farmhouse. The farm will be used to support two local farm and food businesses: von Trapp Farmstead, a cheese-making business owned by Sebastian von Trapp, and Joey Nagy’s Mad Taco restaurant.
Nagy, together with Georgia von Trapp, will focus on growing produce for The Mad Taco, in addition to raising chickens, cattle and goats. Sebastian will use the land to raise heifers for his cheese business.
“We are so excited to be the new owners and stewards of the farm,” said Joey Nagy. “Affordable farmland is hard to find in this area. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the Vermont Land Trust and Mr. Tenney. We look forward to bringing the farm back into production.”
“The farm’s conservation ensures that 28 acres of pasture and 248 acres of forestland will remain undeveloped and contribute to the working landscape in the Mad River Valley. The conservation easement, a legal tool that protects land, has provisions to ensure that, in the future, the farm will always be sold to farmers at its affordable agricultural value,” Walker added.
The farm’s sugarbush, which has been used by Easty Long for 40 years, will continue to be leased to him.
The conservation of the Tenney farm also fulfills the hopes of the Mad River Riders to gain recreational access across the property. “We are honored to partner with the Nagy and the von Trapp families and grow our collaboration with the Vermont Land Trust, the Catamount Trail Association and the Mad River Path Association,” said John Atkinson, executive director of the Mad River Riders. “We are excited to help lead the design and build process for multi-use trails that can be enjoyed all year long by the community.”