State Funding Enables Farmland Conservation in Bradford

BRADFORD, VT—With support from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and the Bradford Conservation Commission, the Upper Valley Land Trust recently purchased development rights and accepted a conservation easement on 57 acres owned by Roy and Sylvia Sweet in Bradford, VT. The property is vital to the Sweets dairy operation, one of the last three remaining in Topsham—now it will remain free from development forever.The newly conserved land produces most of the corn used for the Sweets successful dairy farm. It was given to Roy and Sylvia Sweet by Sylvia’s parents and has been in her family for many years. Sylvia Sweet says that her grandchildren have taken an interest in the land, “This year our grandchildren raised some sweet corn on the property to sell at their own farm stand; it turned out to be a lot of work because we planted several varieties to ripen at different times, and we had to walk a ways to get out there and then had to carry it back, but they thought it was fun and want to do it again.”

The property’s location at the mouth of the Waits River, its significant riverine forest habitat, and agricultural value provide high conservation benefits to the community. Nancy Jones of the Bradford Conservation Commission said, “We had Oxbow students study the wildlife on the property and in the wetland a couple of years ago. They found turtles and beaver, and weasel and muskrat tracks.” In addition to its significant natural resource values, the land is in close proximity to other UVLT conserved lands along the Connecticut River.The potential for public access has been granted in the conservation easement, offering significant birding and wildlife viewing opportunities. Nancy Jones of the Bradford Conservation Commission says, “This is a valuable public resource that we can’t get to right now because of the railroad tracks. But we are working to find a way that will allow us to build a trail and open it to the public.”

Over the past 5 years, UVLT has conserved 105 properties encompassing about 12,000 acres. Twenty-one of these properties, like the Sweet parcel, were conserved through the purchase of a conservation easement. These purchased conservation easements protect lands that had been a community’s highest priority and/or resources considered significant statewide or nationally. To conserve these properties, UVLT used over $3 million awarded by state and federal agencies, town conservation funds and private foundations. The future of this funding is now in peril.

The conservation of the Sweet parcel may be the last project of its kind for some time, if Governor Douglas’ proposed budget is passed by the legislature. The proposal includes completely eliminating funding for the conservation portion of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board’s budget. Without funding to purchase easements, conservation work will become dependent on the ability of landowners to donate easements—this will severely limit the ability of the Upper Valley Land Trust, and other recipients of VHCB funding to protect Vermont’s working landscape.

UVLT has joined forces with a coalition of conservancies in Vermont to advocate for the continuance of state funding for the preservation of more working farms like the Sweets. The state and the region cannot afford to lose these vital elements of the local economy, especially during this difficult time. For more information about the “Conservation Can’t Wait” campaign, please visit