Conservation helps Wulfkuhle family reopen beloved farm

Wood’s Market Garden has been a fixture in Rutland County for decades. In spring 2023, we helped farmers Dan and Elyse Wulfkuhle take over the Brandon farm after Jon Satz—long-time owner, farmer, and beloved community figure—passed away.

Jon Satz, innovative farmer and community figure

The property was originally conserved with us by Jon, in 2000. It was one of our early efforts to help beginning farmers get a farm of their own.

Jon bought the farm from former state representative Robert Wood and his wife, Sally. The farm had been in the Wood family for 110 years. Jon was able to afford it because conservation funding reduced the amount he had to pay.

For over two decades, Jon ran a successful organic vegetable and fruit operation with the help of his wife, Courtney. Over the years, he bought more adjacent land, added greenhouses, irrigation and more. Their thriving farmstand was a community hub for many in Rutland County.

The business would have kept growing if not for a long illness that finally took him in August 2021.

Man and woman smiling at camera with wooden barn behind them with 'Wood's' painted on it - Woods Market Garden - Jon and Courtney Satz

Jon and Courtney at the farm in 2013

A farm in need of a farmer, a farmer looking for a farm

The future of the farm became uncertain. While the 2000 conservation easement protected the land against development, it did not guarantee that the land would stay in farming. Courtney did not want to continue the farm on her own, with two young sons still to raise. She began working with us to add conservation restrictions that would keep the farm available to future farmers.

Meanwhile, Dan and Elyse Wulfkuhle were looking for a farm in Vermont. Originally from Massachusetts, Dan had been farming since he was a teenager—his first job was at a farm in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. He has a degree in Plant, Soil, and Insect Science. Elyse has worked for many years in natural resource conservation. The couple had two children while living and working in Washington State but Dan was keen to move back east to farm.

“We were looking for farmland for the past six years, and it was very difficult to find something we felt we could afford,” said Dan.

Elyse and Dan got connected to Courtney through a mutual friend, and ‘clicked.’ The Wulfkuhles joined in the conservation process and, in December 2022, were able to buy the farm.

In May 2023, they added conservation restrictions to ensure the farm will remain available to farmers. They also conserved 57 additional acres and added special clean-water protections on 79 acres of wetlands, stream, pond and surrounding woods. These conservation measures attracted grant funding that made buying the farm more affordable for the Wulfkuhles.

“VLT’s support, and the existing infrastructure and support for the business made us feel like we could swing this,” said Dan.

Keeping that love alive: a new chapter at Wood’s Market Garden

“We’re delighted to support and celebrate a new chapter at this beloved farm in Rutland County,” said VLT’s Pamela Burlingame. “Finding affordable farmland is really hard and conservation can help. As land prices rise, these enhanced protections are increasingly important for future generations of farmers.”

Dan and Elyse have retained the Wood’s Market Garden name and plan to run the farm much as Jon and Courtney had, with a farmstand and a CSA. Woods Market Garden reopened on May 6, 2023, selling hanging baskets, potted annuals, perennials, and organic vegetable and herb starts, as well as local products. As the season progresses, more and more organic produce grown on the farm will be available for purchase.

“We feel incredibly lucky to have found and to now own this incredible farm,” said Dan. “Jon and Courtney Satz built a beautiful business and community, and we are really hoping to continue Jon’s legacy.”

“We see and live what an amazing person Jon was everyday by working with employees that have worked at Wood’s for the past twenty years,” he added, “by interacting with his beautiful family, by learning his innovative farming systems secondhand, and from hearing the incredible support from the customers. Our aspiration for Wood’s is to keep that love alive and continue being a beloved institution in Brandon by providing the best quality plants and vegetables we can to the community.”

For her part, Courtney is very glad about this outcome. “The process of transitioning our farm into new hands was filled with all the feelings for me…anxiety, sadness, hope, and finally, peace,” she said. “My heart is full knowing that Dan and Elyse have already done so much in just a few short months on the farm. The community has wrapped around all of us and will help carry this season forward in a wonderful way. It will always be a part of me, and it’s the best feeling to see a new family embracing it.”

Conservation of the farmland was made possible with funding from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) and an anonymous gift made in memory of Jon Satz. VHCB’s Farm & Forest Viability Program supported business planning services provided by Land for Good and the Intervale.