Pine Island Community Farm is located in Colchester. It is a place where New Americans—people who originally came to Vermont as refugees—can produce food and enjoy the land. The farm is owned by the Vermont Land Trust and is home to farm businesses and community gardens. The businesses share land, buildings, and equipment.
Many people who come here as refugees have farming roots. Pine Island Community Farm is a place where people can be on the land again and grow or buy food that is hard to get in Vermont. It’s a space where people can experience a Vermont that feels more like home.
The Vermont Land Trust bought this 230-acre farm at an auction in 2012. The land trust wanted the land to serve the community. It also wanted to protect the Winooski River, which runs along the southern end of the farm.
Around this time, a community organizer suggested starting a goat business to produce meat for the traditional meals of New Americans. Goat is eaten in many parts of the world but is hard to find fresh in Vermont. And so began the first business on Pine Island Community Farm. Today the farm has three independent businesses and many garden plots, all run by families from around the globe.
Over the years, the land trust has improved the buildings and infrastructure, and protected areas along the river. The land trust and its partners have promoted responsible farming, planted trees near the river, and encouraged native plants to grow.
Of the 400 meat goats raised by Chuda and Gita Dhaurali, most are male. The Dhauralis buy the goats at two-months-old and feed them grain, hay, minerals, and vitamins for a balanced diet.
Before Pine Island Community Farm, many New American families imported frozen goat meat from New Zealand or visited the Boston area. Since the business started in 2013, the herd size has grown. Customers pick out their goat, which is then slaughtered on the farm.
In Bhutan, where the Dhaurali family is from, goats are used for everyday dishes, like curry and stews, and are roasted at celebrations. Chuda and Gita spent nearly 20 years in a refugee camp in Nepal before resettling in Burlington in 2009. The Dhauralis and their two children live on the farm.
Buying a goat
To buy a goat, please contact Chuda (802) 825-6626 or come to the farm at 1029 Pine Island Road, Colchester.
Chickens & Vegetables
The farm hosts a direct-to-consumer meat bird operation. Theogene and Hyacinthe Mahoro have looked after meat birds since starting the chicken operation in 2015. They now sell thousands of chickens each year.
Chickens are an important part of the Rwandan diet. The couple arrived from Rawanda under the refugee resettlement program in 2004 and now live on the farm with their children. Theogene and Hyacinthe buy chicks when they are a couple days old and raise them for a few months. Customers choose their chickens, and the birds are slaughtered on site.
Hyacinthe also runs a commercial vegetable plot in the community garden area. She grows produce and sells it to Burlington markets and restaurants.
Buying chickens and vegetables
If you are interested buying chickens, please contact Theogene at (802) 829-7642. To buy vegetables, contact Hychinthe at (802) 829-7371. Or, come to the farm at 1029 Pine Island Road, Colchester.
There are seven acres of community gardens at the farm that are used by approximately 75+ families from 10 countries. Each family manages a plot that is between 1/16 and 1/8 of an acre; they use well water to irrigate and goat manure from the farm to fertilize.
Families grow produce and grains such as African corn and eggplant, a variety of hot peppers, amaranth, bitter melon, and greens.These plots help people save on grocery bills and offer a chance to socialize.
The gardens are organized by language or nationality to ease collaboration. There are Somali Bantu and Bhutanese groups, and a group that speaks Swahili and French. Garden leaders meet to plan, share updates, and address issues.
Nature at Pine Island Community Farm
Pine Island Community Farm shows how a working farm can coexist with nature. The farm sits on the Winooski River, which flows into Lake Champlain. The farmstead area sits high up on the land; to the north, there are 77 acres of wetlands. There are also 52 acres of woods that often flood; this type of woodland is called a floodplain forest. The forest and wetland areas are home to many animals.
Wildlife at Pine Island
This farm, its wetlands, fields, and floodplain forest are home to many birds, such as ospreys, which thrive on the banks of the river, where they swoop down and grab fish with their talons, or belted kingfishers who often make themselves known through their coarse rattling sounds.The river itself is home to at least seven rare fishes and mussels. In the community gardens and hayfields, northern green frogs are commonly seen leaping along. There are also many mammals, including white-tailed deer, river otter, muskrat, mink, beaver, and fisher.
Why Pine Island’s wetlands are important
A wetland is a community of plants, animals, insects, bacteria, and other organisms that all live in a place that is, well, wet! Wetlands have soils that are often, if not always, soaked with water. The plants that live in wetlands must love water to survive here. Many types of grasses, sedges, cattails, and alders can be seen in these wetlands.
Wetlands are important to protect because they support a huge variety of life. They are also important for clean water. Wetlands are like sponges; they hold and filter water before it enters rivers and lakes. Without wetlands, sand, soil, and pollutants would flow freely into our rivers. This would dirty the water, making it hard for fish and other creatures to live. Because wetlands can hold a lot of water, they also can slow flooding and prevent damage to nearby towns.
The farm’s floodplain
A river’s flowing water is not always contained within its banks. When the Winooski River floods, the water spreads into the flat landscape that surrounds it. This flooding often occurs in the spring, when rain and melting snow cover the land around the riverbanks with water. The flood water carries fine sediment that is deposited as the water spreads and slows across the flat land.
This process creates very fertile soils, which is why many floodplains have been cleared for farming. Pine Island Community Farm has 52 acres of floodplain forest that are part of the larger Winooski River floodplain.
The floodplain forests here give us an idea of what the landscape may have looked like before most of it was cleared for farming. These forests have silver maple, red maple, and green ash trees, with a lot of ostrich fern and sensitive fern growing closer to the ground.