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Vera Simon-Nobes (one of our first farmers!) and her sheep dog Aldo standing in front of the Sheep Barn prior to restoration in 2012.

Vera Simon-Nobes (one of our first farmers!) and her sheep dog Aldo standing in front of the Sheep Barn prior to restoration in 2012.

Peter Swift, Diana McCargo and Grant McCargo farm planning and visioning in October 2015.

Peter Swift, Diana McCargo and Grant McCargo farm planning and visioning in October 2015.

Michael Haulenbeek, Ed Pitcavage and Peter Swift inspecting our newly acquired keyline plow in 2015.

Michael Haulenbeek, Ed Pitcavage and Peter Swift inspecting our newly acquired keyline plow in 2015.

Studying the grass species growing in our pastures during a visit with Sarah Flack.

Studying the grass species growing in our pastures during a visit with Sarah Flack.

Vera Simon-Nobes leading some of our first farm tours with the students at the Charlotte Central School.

Vera Simon-Nobes leading some of our first farm tours with the students at the Charlotte Central School.

One of our early farmers, Lauren Lees, with our very first herd of pigs.

One of our early farmers, Lauren Lees, with our very first herd of pigs.

The Garen Barn being reconstructed to become the heart of our Market.

The Garen Barn being reconstructed to become the heart of our Market.

Hosting a kid’s music and art event in the Pack Barn in the summer of 2018.

Hosting a kid’s music and art event in the Pack Barn in the summer of 2018.

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Five generations of Vermont farmers

Throughout its two centuries in agricultural production, many changes have come to the historic farm at the intersection of Mt. Philo and Hinesburg roads, in Charlotte, Vermont. A new wave of stewardship and preservation underscore its recent past and current story, but productivity has been at heart of the farm for many generations. 

 In 1878, the Foote family purchased a large parcel of land in Charlotte, which was to become their family farm for the next five generations.  The iconic “Old Black Barn” sits on the edge of Mt. Philo Road and housed cows when Murray Foote was a child. Born in 1917, Foote remembered working in the historic barn, an English-style barn built in the early 1800s.  

 
Luigi Lucioni was an Italian-born American painter and printmaker who painted the “Old Black Barn” in the mid-1900s. This barn (with a fresh coat of paint) is now called the Sheep Barn and is still in use today.

Luigi Lucioni was an Italian-born American painter and printmaker who painted the “Old Black Barn” in the mid-1900s. This barn (with a fresh coat of paint) is now called the Sheep Barn and is still in use today.

As a young man, Foote left Charlotte to attend college and returned to find the farm in tough shape. “I figured I either had to fish or cut bait…so I bought some calves, had a dairy of 15 cows, and we milked them,” Foote told the Vermont Land Trust in 2004. Even while working as a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Vermont, Foote continued operating the dairy with his wife, Geneva and son and daughter-in-law, Jonathan and Linda. 

In 1990, the Foote family placed a conservation easement on their property, and opted to donate the development rights instead of selling them. “It has always been in our interest to preserve land,” Foote said. The Vermont Land Trust, Preservation Trust and the Freeman Foundation came together at that time to help preserve the iconic “Old Black Barn.”

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In 2012, Jonathan and Linda Foote, the 5th generation of Foote farmers, made the difficult decision to sell the farm. Area farmers gathered on a cloudy spring day for an auction, where the tools, equipment, and livestock were sold to breathe new life into nearby farms. 

The farm was purchased by neighbors, Diana McCargo and Peter Swift, with the hopes of continuing the agricultural legacy of the property. Michael Haulenbeek and Vera Simon-Nobes moved onto the property in 2012 with a flock of sheep and a livestock guardian puppy in tow. In 2015, the many features of the historic dairy farm coalesced under the name Philo Ridge Farm. 

 
Vera Simon-Nobes and Michael Haulenbeek moving their flock of sheep using electric fencing.

Vera Simon-Nobes and Michael Haulenbeek moving their flock of sheep using electric fencing.

We did extensive repairs and restoration over many years to the existing barn structures to bring this old farm back to life. Wherever we could, we used existing materials instead of bringing in new and wanted to highlight the incredible architecture of the region. Working very closely with us, the Weather Hill Company headed the design and restoration of many of our original farm buildings, giving new life to old structures.

 
The Commons Barn has been our biggest project to date, using materials from a neighboring barn called the Garen Barn. The Garen Barn is a 150-year-old pine post and beam, braced frame barn with a mortise and tendon construction, joined with oak pegs. Crafted in the English hay barn style, it has pine plank floors, entrances in the front and the back (originally made for hay wagons) and three bays. Instead of being torn down, it is now the heart of our Commons Barn.

The Commons Barn has been our biggest project to date, using materials from a neighboring barn called the Garen Barn. The Garen Barn is a 150-year-old pine post and beam, braced frame barn with a mortise and tendon construction, joined with oak pegs. Crafted in the English hay barn style, it has pine plank floors, entrances in the front and the back (originally made for hay wagons) and three bays. Instead of being torn down, it is now the heart of our Commons Barn.

Today, our practices are founded in regenerative agriculture to aid in soil recovery to strengthen our ecosystem. We aim to innovate based on current research and aesthetic sensitivity. We hope to pass on improved land that is a healthy and beautiful legacy, as well as a viable business model, to future generations.

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