Greensboro — Brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler purchased 51 acres in Greenboro and conserved the land with the Vermont Land Trust as part of a broader effort to expand their cheese businesses at the Cellars at Jasper Hill.
Andy and Mateo started Jasper Hill Farm in 2003, milking 15 heifers in an old tie-stall barn. Thirteen years later, their small dairy has grown into a cheese-making phenomenon, with 85 employees, and millions of dollars in sales both nationally and internationally.
The farm has a herd of about 45 Ayrshire cows that graze the fields in warmer months.An onsite creamery produces Bayley Hazen Blue, Moses Sleeper and Winnimere cheeses from this herd, which is aged—along with cheese from herds on other Vermont dairies—at the state-of-the-art cheese caves built in 2008.
The caves, known as the Cellars at Jasper Hill, are currently at 70% capacity—something the brothers are trying to change.
To expand cheese production, Andy and Mateo bought two parcels of adjoining farmland on Country Club Road located on the edge of Greensboro village. The farmland will be home to a new herd and a state-of-the art cheese-making facility, which will produce cheeses that the brothers have been developing.
Andy and Mateo sold a conservation easement on the land to the Vermont Land Trust with funding from the Freeman Foundation, the Greensboro Conservation Fund, the Greensboro Land Trust and the Lookout Foundation.
“We are choosing to conserve [this land] to help fulfill our business mission of maintaining the working landscape,” said Andy Kehler. “This conservation project will maintain the opportunity for agriculture to exist as a central part of our community.
Andy and Mateo also conserved a portion of their main farm with the Vermont Land Trust back in 2008.
“An important piece of our work is to support a thriving farm economy,” remarked Tracy Zschau of the Vermont Land Trust. “Conserving farmland with Andy and Mateo, along with many other farmers in the Greensboro area has helped ensure there is productive land base to support farms now and in the future.”
Andy and Mateo see the new farm as a place that will allow more people to be trained in the art of high-quality cheese-making. The more artisan cheeses that are produced, the more cheese that can fill the Cellars.
There is still a lot of room for growth. If the caves were full, they would be ripening cheese from about 800 cows. This new farm will bring Andy and Mateo one step closer.
“As we as a culture become further removed from our food supply and agriculture,” remarked Andy, “we are excited to preserve the opportunity for agriculture, and dairy in particular, to be a visible and celebrated part of the activities that occur in the village.”
The conserved land has 40 acres of hayfields, all of which have prime agricultural soils. The rest of the property is wooded wetland, which will be permanently protected for water quality through restrictions in the conservation easement.
The project was the culmination of a three-farm conservation effort in Greensboro that was supported in part by the town’s conservation fund and the Greensboro Land Trust. The other two farms protected were the former Jaffin Farm on Jaffin Flats Road, owned by Shaun and Darren Hill and former Fontaine Farm on Taylor and Garvin Roads owned by Todd Hardie.
“The Town of Greensboro and the Greensboro Land Trust are grateful to the VLT for its initiative in helping return three one-time farm properties to agricultural use and ensuring that they remain in that use indefinitely,” remarked Clive Gray of the Greensboro Land Trust. “The Jasper Hill easement opens up the likelihood that Greensboro villagers will see dairy farming return next door after more than 70 years.”
The Kehlers contributed a portion of the easement value by selling the development rights for less than their full assessed value.