Goat farmers are now the owners of what has been known as Pine Island Community Farm
After ten years of leasing the farm on Pine Island Road, Chuda and Gita Dhaurali bought the conserved property from the Vermont Land Trust and will continue operating their business, Dhaurali Goats, there.
“This is very exciting because we have worked here on this beautiful land for a long time as renters,” said Chuda Dhaurali. “To own the property is a very happy moment for us. The whole community will be proud and happy with this. This is a good help for me and a good example for new American people coming into farming and to establish a good business in Vermont.”
The Dhaurali family runs a goat meat operation. Customers can pick their goat on the farm that has a state-sanctioned slaughter facility. Their customers include many first-generation American families for whom goat meat is part of traditional meals and celebrations.
For the past several years, the Dhauralis have also hosted a popular Christmas tree drop-off in January, which has brought hundreds of visitors to the farm and helped recycle holiday trees into food for goats.
Originally from Bhutan, the Dhauralis spent nearly 20 years in a refugee camp in Nepal before resettling in Burlington in 2009. They live with their two children on the farm. They started their goat business in 2013 and have since grown their herd to 500 head.
The Dhauralis and VLT worked together to conserve the 220-acre farm. The property includes over 80 acres of fertile agricultural soils and 120 acres of wetlands. A mile of the Winooski River runs along the southern end of the farm on its way to Lake Champlain. Under the conservation easement, land along the river will be kept vegetated for clean water and wildlife habitat.
“We’re excited to celebrate this moment with Chuda and Gita,” said Tyler Miller of the Vermont Land Trust. “They’ve worked hard to build their business over the past 10 years into a thriving farm with a loyal customer base. The original vision of Pine Island was to help incubate farm businesses and eventually transfer the land to the farmers who raise livestock here. Thanks to the Dhauralis and many partners, that day is here.”
Pine Island Community Gardens will continue
The Vermont Land Trust will continue to operate Pine Island Community Gardens through a long-term lease agreement with the Dhauralis. Last year, roughly 75 families from 10 countries grew vegetables such as African corn and eggplant, a variety of hot peppers, amaranth, bitter melon and greens, on the seven acres of gardens at the farm.
Formerly a dairy farm, the land was bought at auction in 2012 by the Vermont Land Trust. The organization joined with the Vermont Goat Collaborative, led by the late Karen Freudenberger and Chuda Dhuarali and housed at the Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV), to host a goat farm on the land. At the time, it was difficult to find goat meat, an important part of traditional foods for many first-generation Americans, locally. The vision was that the farm would eventually be transferred to the farmers in residence.
The farm has since been home to multiple farm businesses and community gardens. Many volunteers and partners, including the Intervale Center, AALV, City Market, and the Burlington-area consortium New Farms for New Americans, have been integral to the success of these initiatives.