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UVLT and VTC Joint Statement on Norwich Farms

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VermontTech_stack

 

To: Norwich Select Board
From: Upper Valley Land Trust and Vermont Technical College
Re: Joint Statement Regarding Norwich Farms
Date: April 19, 2018

In 2015, Vermont Technical College accepted the Sigler Farm in Norwich as a gift, and the College created a semester-long residential educational experience for its agricultural students on the site.  Vermont Tech and the Upper Valley Land Trust worked together to make this project possible, permanently conserving more than 350 acres of the Farm’s surrounding fields and forests.

 

Vermont Tech is committed to providing cost efficient and diverse educational opportunities to create the next generation of highly skilled workers that Vermont’s dairy sector will require. Following a thoughtful strategic review, Vermont Tech determined last summer that it could provide a more integrated educational experience for agricultural students by consolidating its agricultural programming on its Randolph campus.  In Randolph, the College has the land base, faculty expertise, and infrastructure to best serve its students.

 

As part of the agreement between Vermont Tech and UVLT to preserve Norwich Farm, UVLT secured the right to purchase the property in the event that the College chose to cease educational operations in Norwich.  In September of 2017, Vermont Tech informed UVLT of its decision to cease such operations. Since that time, both Vermont Tech and UVLT have been working together, along with other involved parties, to evaluate the implications of the Land Trust taking over the property.  In March, UVLT announced it would purchase the property from the College, and the two organizations have been collaborating to ensure a smooth transition of the Farm to UVLT.  Vermont Tech remains committed to selling the property to UVLT. Vermont Tech has discontinued educational programming at Norwich Farm, will remove its dairy processing equipment from the site, and will otherwise prepare the property for sale to UVLT per the option agreement.

 

Both organizations are focused on a timely transition that will allow UVLT to explore a broad range of potential uses for the property that would benefit the local and broader Upper Valley community. UVLT understands that strong feelings exist about this property and its future and remains committed to exploring the best future for the site, including the possibility of working with/hosting viable farm/agricultural operations there.

 

For the past four months, UVLT has been in constant dialogue with state agencies, consultants, and individuals experienced in farm business development, conservancy farming, and community-based farms in order to gain a broader understanding of the complicated nature of blending a unique asset like Norwich Farm with potential non-profit and private-sector, for-profit activities. UVLT expects to incur approximately $60,000 – $80,000 in costs annually, before utilities, to maintain more than $1 million of farm buildings and land located at Norwich Farm in good working order in perpetuity, depending upon what types of activities will be occurring on the site.  These costs include provisions for property taxes, insurance, and asset maintenance and replacement.

 

In December, UVLT began publicly soliciting proposals from potential partners for projects that would use part or all of the Norwich Farm property. Successful proposals to use the facilities at Norwich Farm must be economically sustainable, be of benefit to the local and broader Upper Valley Community, be consistent with UVLT’s original conservation goals for its adjacent conserved land, and meet UVLT’s obligations as a non-profit to use charitable dollars only for its charitable purposes. Proposals should not require subsidization from UVLT. A committee consisting of UVLT board members, supported by an independent consultant and trusted advisors, is currently reviewing proposals from non-profits and other agriculture-based organizations for future use of the farm.

 

As Vermont Tech and UVLT enter the final phase of this transition during the next few months, we seek to create a strong and sustainable future for this valuable community resource.