A legacy of beloved family land

Nearly 65 years ago, the Crowe family purchased an old farm on Dunham Hill Road in Woodstock with meadows, pastures, and forestland. In 2004, Mary Crowe, one of three sisters who grew up on the farm, conserved the land with VLT. At the time, Mary said “I want to do all I can to see this land remain in agricultural use in the future.” This year, she fulfilled her vision by working with VLT’s Farmland Access Program to sell 121 acres to farmers Amy and Ben Halley.

Amy’s childhood home, which her parents still own, is just next door. “I grew up overlooking the pastures,” she recalled. Amy sometimes babysat Mary’s children, and they went swimming together.

With Amy’s love of the land and Ben’s dairy background, the couple shared a dream of farming. “We wanted the feeling of being part of a farming community,” Amy said.

“A couple of cows, a couple of pigs”: starting a livestock business

In 2012, Ben and Amy were living in nearby Windsor and looking to move back. So Mary began to lease the farmland to them. “We wanted to live closer to the land and raise our kids on a farm,” said Amy. Second Wind Farm “started with a couple of cows, a couple of pigs, chickens, and horses. …We raised sheep for six years and sold the meat at market. We’ve been steadily building up the meat business.”

This year, Mary donated an ‘option to purchase at agricultural value’ to VLT before selling the farm to Ben and Amy. This legal document gives VLT the option to buy the farm at its agricultural value should the owner try to sell the farm to a non-farmer—effectively ensuring that the farm will always be available to future farmers.

“We had horses, cows, and a hay business,” said Mary. “I lived there from the time I was seven until I went to college, and after that I returned home often with my kids to give them a taste of the wonderful childhood I spent on this farm. My mother also loved this farm and lived on it until she died in 1990. She always said she wanted it to remain a working farm.”

“When it came time to sell it,” she added, “I wanted the land to go to someone I knew. Amy and her family have been neighbors for many years, so it seemed like a wonderful fit.”

For Ben and Amy, working with the Farmland Access Program made all the difference. With the conservation restrictions on the land, the farm became more affordable. “It was going to be impossible to continue to farm it if we had to buy it at the market rate,” said Amy.

Reflecting on owning land she grew up with, Amy said “It’s amazing… It has a completely different meaning now that we can cultivate it and build it. It’s always been beautiful, but now we want to create something and use it.”