• Young dairy entrepreneur to take over history Fayston farm
     | December 01,2012

    File Photo The Bragg Farm in Fayston, with Sugarbush's Mount Ellen in the background, is a classic Vermont scene.

    A 27-year-old plans to take over the historic Bragg Farm in Fayston for artisanal butter production.

    The Vermont Land Trust solicited applications from potential buyers and selected Marisa Mauro, a Waterbury resident who operated Ploughgate Creamery in Albany until a fire destroyed her leased facility a year ago.

    Ploughgate Creamery had focused on cheese production, but at Bragg Farm, Mauro said in an interview, she plans to focus on developing butter. She said she will package the butter on the farm and work with local farmers markets, chefs and stores in central Vermont.

    The 49-acre property is appraised at $760,000, but Mauro will purchase it for $175,000. The land trust is raising the rest of the money to cover a conservation easement.

    “As a farmer and Vermonter, I am so proud to be part of the Mad River Valley community,” Mauro said in a news release. “With this opportunity, I can’t wait to get to work at the Bragg Farm with my family, friends and neighbors and contribute to our working landscape.”

    The farm was put on the market in 2008 by Reggie and Dorothy Bragg.

    The land trust purchased it in August through bridge financing in conjunction with the Mad River Watershed Conservation Partnership, which comprises the land trust, the Mad River Valley Planning District, the Friends of the Mad River and the Fayston Natural Resource Committee.

    Mauro, a farmer with 13 years of experience on dairy farms, was one of 13 applicants to take it over. She said she plans to acquire 10 cows in the next two months for the Fayston farm, which is often photographed with the Sugarbush ski slopes in the background.

    The land trust plans to transfer the farm to the revived Ploughgate Creamery after securing grants and working with the Mad River Valley community on a private campaign to raise the remaining money to conserve the farm.

    Of the fundraising goal of $792,000, the land trust is seeking $292,000 from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Aside from that funding, a donation of $250,000 has already been pledged.

    The land trust still needs to raise $207,000.

    Mauro plans to establish a small-scale, grass-based dairy farm there.

    The by-products of the butter-making process will include buttermilk as well as pork from skim milk-fed suckling pigs.

    Mauro established Ploughgate Creamery in 2008 and produced award-winning cheese. She is now working other jobs.

    The Bragg Farm was purchased in the 1850s by Azro and Anna Bragg. At its peak, the Braggs owned 550 acres and milked 40 cows, and produced strawberries, raspberries, potatoes and enough maple syrup to export to western markets.

    In 1909, Frank Bragg, the couple’s son, began to mill the lumber to build the massive late bank-style barn, a project that took three years. Frank Bragg died shortly after, and the farm was sold.

    In 1952, Willis and Erlene Bragg reacquired a portion of the original family farm to operate a small dairy.

    Reggie Bragg’s cousin Doug Bragg is still operating the Bragg Farm Sugarhouse and Gift Shop in East Montpelier. Doug Bragg’s father bought the East Montpelier property in 1965, which was primarily used for dairy farming and currently focuses on retail maple syrup products.

    Mauro said she hopes to participate in local farmers markets and plans to engage the community through outreach including plans for on-farm events and educational programs.

    A link to make online donations can be found at vlt.org/.

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