Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo The Legare farm and its market on Route 14 in Calais is being sold to organic vegetable grower Pete Johnson of Pete's Greens in Craftsbury.
CALAIS — The man behind what’s billed as “Vermont’s 4-Season Organic Vegetable Farm” is getting ready to grow in more ways than one. Pete Johnson, of Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, is poised to purchase the 300-acre farm that Merrill Legare put on the map in Calais more than four decades ago.
It isn’t a done deal, but Johnson said Thursday the price is right and that the closing is tentatively set for next week. He’s eager to see what he can do with land that was farmed for 40 years by a man he described as “a real pioneer” when it comes to fresh produce in Vermont.
He’ll just have to wait awhile.
Although Johnson and Legare have green thumbs and fresh vegetables in common, Johnson’s farm in Craftsbury is certified organic, and it will be two years before he can say the same about the one he plans to buy from Legare.
“That land needs a couple more years before it can be certified (organic),” Johnson said, suggesting he isn’t in a rush to plant anything other than hay on property that features very sandy soils he believes would benefit biologically from a break.
“We think a couple of years in hay would be really healthy for it,” he said.
According to Johnson, that gives him time to think about how to incorporate his looming acquisition into the growing empire he started on less than an acre at his parents’ home in Greensboro in 1995 and moved to Craftsbury in 2003.
The move to the 190-acre farm in Craftsbury, which includes 35 acres of prime agricultural land, capped a five-year search that proved one thing to Johnson.
“The opportunity to buy farms that are good for growing vegetables on are not too common,” he said, noting that is why he had spoken to Legare about the possibility of buying his farm over the years and why he was more than willing to listen when the family approached him several months ago.
“We were happy to be able to take it when it was offered to us,” Johnson said, noting that of the 300 acres, 42 acres are “good vegetable land,” there is a house “with potential” and greenhouses he will ultimately find a use for.
For now, Johnson said, he’ll clean up the property with an eye toward eventually making it a functioning part of his all-organic vegetable operation and perhaps opening a second farm stand there.
The farm’s proximity to Montpelier and its prominent location on Route 14 both made it attractive, according to Johnson, who said he is willing to wait awhile to make the most of those attributes.
“I think two, three years from now is when we’ll start to be a real asset to the community,” he said.
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