Farmers set aside land

BRIDPORT - The Audet family, owners of Blue Spruce Farm, have been farming in Bridport since the 1950s. This month, the family conserved 441 acres of farmland that lies on the north side of Route 125, the Vermont Land Trust announced last week.

The Audets decided to conserve the land soon after they purchased it from Stephen and Margaret Cooke in 2007. Funding for the farmland's conservation was provided by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. The conservation easement restricts future subdivision and commercial development; it does allow for the construction of one house for farm workers.

Three Audet brothers - Eugene, Earle and Ernie - and over 20 family members and employees manage the modern dairy operation that includes a methane digester, which turns manure into electricity. All told, the family milks over 1,000 cows.

"This was a business decision for us," commented Eugene Audet. "Selling the development rights helps our bottom line. We're in the dairy business for the long haul and we need this land for growing hay and corn, not for growing houses. We feel we're good stewards of the land and that conserving this parcel fits in well with our business goals."

Bridport has some of the largest blocks of conserved farmland in Vermont," said Allen Karnatz, of the Vermont Land Trust. "It's an important economic engine for the New England dairy industry. The town recognizes the importance of farming to the regional and local economy and we had good community support from both the Selectboard and the Planning Commission."

In addition to farmland, the conserved property also has 13 acres of woods on its northern boundary that is Clayplain forest, an uncommon natural area.

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