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Gift That Keeps on Giving: Man Donates Norwich Farm to Vermont Technical College Gift That Keeps on Giving: Man Donates Norwich Farm to Vermont Technical College Gift That Keeps on Giving: Man Donates Norwich Farm to Vermont Technical College Gift That Keeps on Giving: Man Donates Norwich Farm to Vermont Technical College



Friday, June 19, 2015
Norwich — Vermont Technical College has announced that it plans to convert Norwich Farms, whose owner is donating the Turnpike Road property to the Randolph-based college, to a working dairy farm that will begin residential training programs for students in 2016.

VTC officials say the farm will offer an in-residence program for between 10 and 12 tuition-paying students during the fall and spring semesters, and may expand its course offerings to the summer months and rent out some of its space to commercial partners and summer camps. The state college is receiving aid from the Upper Valley Land Trust, which is raising $300,000 for a capital donation that will help VTC get started while setting aside a large portion of the roughly 350-acre property for conservation.

On Thursday, officials from all over Vermont — representing the Upper Valley Land Trust, the state college system, the state department of agriculture and the state legislature — gathered for a press conference in front of a barn where cows lay in stalls, swatting flies and lowing occasionally in the mild summer heat.

VTC President Dan Smith thanked owner Andy Sigler, in absentia, for his gift, which the college appraised in January at $1.55 million, a figure that includes the land and most of its buildings but excludes the value of a large house on the property.

“We’re grateful for what is an incredibly generous donation,” Smith said, predicting that the hands-on learning afforded by the opening of the new program would benefit both the college and dairy production in Vermont.

“A strong dairy program supports a strong dairy industry,” he added.

Sigler, a former Dartmouth trustee who served on the board of General Electric, moved to Norwich after retiring as CEO of Stamford, Conn.-based Champion International Paper in 1996. He bought Norwich Farms from the family of farmers who owned it and converted it to a nonprofit research center — a move that the town opposed, seeking to avoid exempting the property from taxes.

Subsequently, Sigler and his wife, Margaret, were plaintiffs in a 2002 lawsuit against the town that reached the Vermont Supreme Court, where the couple won a decision allowing them tax-free status.

Reached over the telephone Thursday, Sigler said he would continue to live in Norwich at his Beaver Meadow Road home, as well as manage the Montcalm Golf Club, the golf course he owns in Enfield. He said he donated the farm to VTC because he had worked with the college in the past, which made the institution a logical choice to take over as he grew older.

“Why did I give something away?” he asked rhetorically. “I’m 84 years old, OK? It was time to find a way to put (the farm) somewhere that made a lot of sense, that made me happy.”

Sigler said he didn’t know the value of the gift, but estimated that the house not included in VTC’s assessment would likely go on the market at around $400,000.

The potential impact on the town’s property tax intake is unclear, as Norwich officials said Thursday that the gift to VTC may include some land not exempted in the 2002 decision. If that were the case, then additional land on the town’s property tax rolls may be shielded from taxation under the auspices of tax-exempt VTC.Messages left for Town Manager Neil Fulton and Selectboard Chairwoman Linda Cook weren’t returned Thursday.

Meanwhile, VTC’s Norwich venture is taking place after a year in which the college, citing a decline in enrollment and state funding, eliminated the positions of eight full-time faculty and many more adjuncts.

“It’s a challenge,” Smith said of the task of managing VTC’s finances while opening a branch in Norwich, but he noted that the college already has a working farm in Randolph whose operations may expand to more profitable beef production. “Over time our financial position will strengthen.”

The land trust’s money will help smooth the transition, paying for minor renovations to the farm buildings to meet college standards, Smith said.

Pete Howe, operations director for the college’s agriculture institute, said the facility would likely pay for itself.

“We’re going to set it up to be sustainable,” he said, noting that the college’s primary goal was to educate, not make a profit.

A 2015 VTC graduate, Erick Lafferty, will own and manage the herd, paying most of the associated costs, including feed and veterinary care — an arrangement that allows him to pursue a small profit margin and that spares the college much of the operational burden.

The students will work from early Monday morning to Friday evening, gaining firsthand experience of the management of a dairy farm, and Lafferty will care for the herd on weekends.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Lafferty, who graduated with a degree in Dairy Farm Management Technology. “Most people ... don’t get chances like this straight out of college.”

The budding dairy farmer said he planned to expand the herd of 20 milking cows to 48, and to have an additional 40 to 60 heifers.

His hope is to raise “top-notch” cattle that he may bring to shows as a means of building his farming reputation.

He invited Norwich residents — and anyone else, for that matter — to drop by the farm anytime to visit.

VTC agriculture professor Chris Dutton, who serves as director of the agriculture institute, said he had posed the idea of a hands-on “intensive dairy semester” to his students this spring and had received a positive response.

“Get us away from our English and math classes while we’re learning our dairy,” Dutton recalled hearing from his pupils.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

Norwich — Vermont Technical College has announced that it plans to convert Norwich Farms, whose owner is donating the Turnpike Road property to the Randolph-based college, to a working dairy farm that will begin residential training programs for students in 2016.

VTC officials say the farm will offer an in-residence program for between 10 and 12 tuition-paying students during the fall and spring semesters, and may expand its course offerings to the summer months and rent out some of its space to commercial partners and summer camps. The state college is receiving aid from the Upper Valley Land Trust, which is raising $300,000 for a capital donation that will help VTC get started while setting aside a large portion of the roughly 350-acre property for conservation.

On Thursday, officials from all over Vermont — representing the Upper Valley Land Trust, the state college system, the state department of agriculture and the state legislature — gathered for a press conference in front of a barn where cows lay in stalls, swatting flies and lowing occasionally in the mild summer heat.

VTC President Dan Smith thanked owner Andy Sigler, in absentia, for his gift, which the college appraised in January at $1.55 million, a figure that includes the land and most of its buildings but excludes the value of a large house on the property.

“We’re grateful for what is an incredibly generous donation,” Smith said, predicting that the hands-on learning afforded by the opening of the new program would benefit both the college and dairy production in Vermont.

“A strong dairy program supports a strong dairy industry,” he added.

Sigler, a former Dartmouth trustee who served on the board of General Electric, moved to Norwich after retiring as CEO of Stamford, Conn.-based Champion International Paper in 1996. He bought Norwich Farms from the family of farmers who owned it and converted it to a nonprofit research center — a move that the town opposed, seeking to avoid exempting the property from taxes.

Subsequently, Sigler and his wife, Margaret, were plaintiffs in a 2002 lawsuit against the town that reached the Vermont Supreme Court, where the couple won a decision allowing them tax-free status.

Reached over the telephone Thursday, Sigler said he would continue to live in Norwich at his Beaver Meadow Road home, as well as manage the Montcalm Golf Club, the golf course he owns in Enfield. He said he donated the farm to VTC because he had worked with the college in the past, which made the institution a logical choice to take over as he grew older.

“Why did I give something away?” he asked rhetorically. “I’m 84 years old, OK? It was time to find a way to put (the farm) somewhere that made a lot of sense, that made me happy.”

Sigler said he didn’t know the value of the gift, but estimated that the house not included in VTC’s assessment would likely go on the market at around $400,000.

The potential impact on the town’s property tax intake is unclear, as Norwich officials said Thursday that the gift to VTC may include some land not exempted in the 2002 decision. If that were the case, then additional land on the town’s property tax rolls may be shielded from taxation under the auspices of tax-exempt VTC.Messages left for Town Manager Neil Fulton and Selectboard Chairwoman Linda Cook weren’t returned Thursday.

Meanwhile, VTC’s Norwich venture is taking place after a year in which the college, citing a decline in enrollment and state funding, eliminated the positions of eight full-time faculty and many more adjuncts.

“It’s a challenge,” Smith said of the task of managing VTC’s finances while opening a branch in Norwich, but he noted that the college already has a working farm in Randolph whose operations may expand to more profitable beef production. “Over time our financial position will strengthen.”

The land trust’s money will help smooth the transition, paying for minor renovations to the farm buildings to meet college standards, Smith said.

Pete Howe, operations director for the college’s agriculture institute, said the facility would likely pay for itself.

“We’re going to set it up to be sustainable,” he said, noting that the college’s primary goal was to educate, not make a profit.

A 2015 VTC graduate, Erick Lafferty, will own and manage the herd, paying most of the associated costs, including feed and veterinary care — an arrangement that allows him to pursue a small profit margin and that spares the college much of the operational burden.

The students will work from early Monday morning to Friday evening, gaining firsthand experience of the management of a dairy farm, and Lafferty will care for the herd on weekends.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Lafferty, who graduated with a degree in Dairy Farm Management Technology. “Most people ... don’t get chances like this straight out of college.”

The budding dairy farmer said he planned to expand the herd of 20 milking cows to 48, and to have an additional 40 to 60 heifers.

His hope is to raise “top-notch” cattle that he may bring to shows as a means of building his farming reputation.

He invited Norwich residents — and anyone else, for that matter — to drop by the farm anytime to visit.

VTC agriculture professor Chris Dutton, who serves as director of the agriculture institute, said he had posed the idea of a hands-on “intensive dairy semester” to his students this spring and had received a positive response.

“Get us away from our English and math classes while we’re learning our dairy,” Dutton recalled hearing from his pupils.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

Norwich — Vermont Technical College has announced that it plans to convert Norwich Farms, whose owner is donating the Turnpike Road property to the Randolph-based college, to a working dairy farm that will begin residential training programs for students in 2016.

VTC officials say the farm will offer an in-residence program for between 10 and 12 tuition-paying students during the fall and spring semesters, and may expand its course offerings to the summer months and rent out some of its space to commercial partners and summer camps. The state college is receiving aid from the Upper Valley Land Trust, which is raising $300,000 for a capital donation that will help VTC get started while setting aside a large portion of the roughly 350-acre property for conservation.

On Thursday, officials from all over Vermont — representing the Upper Valley Land Trust, the state college system, the state department of agriculture and the state legislature — gathered for a press conference in front of a barn where cows lay in stalls, swatting flies and lowing occasionally in the mild summer heat.

VTC President Dan Smith thanked owner Andy Sigler, in absentia, for his gift, which the college appraised in January at $1.55 million, a figure that includes the land and most of its buildings but excludes the value of a large house on the property.

“We’re grateful for what is an incredibly generous donation,” Smith said, predicting that the hands-on learning afforded by the opening of the new program would benefit both the college and dairy production in Vermont.

“A strong dairy program supports a strong dairy industry,” he added.

Sigler, a former Dartmouth trustee who served on the board of General Electric, moved to Norwich after retiring as CEO of Stamford, Conn.-based Champion International Paper in 1996. He bought Norwich Farms from the family of farmers who owned it and converted it to a nonprofit research center — a move that the town opposed, seeking to avoid exempting the property from taxes.

Subsequently, Sigler and his wife, Margaret, were plaintiffs in a 2002 lawsuit against the town that reached the Vermont Supreme Court, where the couple won a decision allowing them tax-free status.

Reached over the telephone Thursday, Sigler said he would continue to live in Norwich at his Beaver Meadow Road home, as well as manage the Montcalm Golf Club, the golf course he owns in Enfield. He said he donated the farm to VTC because he had worked with the college in the past, which made the institution a logical choice to take over as he grew older.

“Why did I give something away?” he asked rhetorically. “I’m 84 years old, OK? It was time to find a way to put (the farm) somewhere that made a lot of sense, that made me happy.”

Sigler said he didn’t know the value of the gift, but estimated that the house not included in VTC’s assessment would likely go on the market at around $400,000.

The potential impact on the town’s property tax intake is unclear, as Norwich officials said Thursday that the gift to VTC may include some land not exempted in the 2002 decision. If that were the case, then additional land on the town’s property tax rolls may be shielded from taxation under the auspices of tax-exempt VTC.Messages left for Town Manager Neil Fulton and Selectboard Chairwoman Linda Cook weren’t returned Thursday.

Meanwhile, VTC’s Norwich venture is taking place after a year in which the college, citing a decline in enrollment and state funding, eliminated the positions of eight full-time faculty and many more adjuncts.

“It’s a challenge,” Smith said of the task of managing VTC’s finances while opening a branch in Norwich, but he noted that the college already has a working farm in Randolph whose operations may expand to more profitable beef production. “Over time our financial position will strengthen.”

The land trust’s money will help smooth the transition, paying for minor renovations to the farm buildings to meet college standards, Smith said.

Pete Howe, operations director for the college’s agriculture institute, said the facility would likely pay for itself.

“We’re going to set it up to be sustainable,” he said, noting that the college’s primary goal was to educate, not make a profit.

A 2015 VTC graduate, Erick Lafferty, will own and manage the herd, paying most of the associated costs, including feed and veterinary care — an arrangement that allows him to pursue a small profit margin and that spares the college much of the operational burden.

The students will work from early Monday morning to Friday evening, gaining firsthand experience of the management of a dairy farm, and Lafferty will care for the herd on weekends.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Lafferty, who graduated with a degree in Dairy Farm Management Technology. “Most people ... don’t get chances like this straight out of college.”

The budding dairy farmer said he planned to expand the herd of 20 milking cows to 48, and to have an additional 40 to 60 heifers.

His hope is to raise “top-notch” cattle that he may bring to shows as a means of building his farming reputation.

He invited Norwich residents — and anyone else, for that matter — to drop by the farm anytime to visit.

VTC agriculture professor Chris Dutton, who serves as director of the agriculture institute, said he had posed the idea of a hands-on “intensive dairy semester” to his students this spring and had received a positive response.

“Get us away from our English and math classes while we’re learning our dairy,” Dutton recalled hearing from his pupils.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

Norwich — Vermont Technical College has announced that it plans to convert Norwich Farms, whose owner is donating the Turnpike Road property to the Randolph-based college, to a working dairy farm that will begin residential training programs for students in 2016.

VTC officials say the farm will offer an in-residence program for between 10 and 12 tuition-paying students during the fall and spring semesters, and may expand its course offerings to the summer months and rent out some of its space to commercial partners and summer camps. The state college is receiving aid from the Upper Valley Land Trust, which is raising $300,000 for a capital donation that will help VTC get started while setting aside a large portion of the roughly 350-acre property for conservation.

On Thursday, officials from all over Vermont — representing the Upper Valley Land Trust, the state college system, the state department of agriculture and the state legislature — gathered for a press conference in front of a barn where cows lay in stalls, swatting flies and lowing occasionally in the mild summer heat.

VTC President Dan Smith thanked owner Andy Sigler, in absentia, for his gift, which the college appraised in January at $1.55 million, a figure that includes the land and most of its buildings but excludes the value of a large house on the property.

“We’re grateful for what is an incredibly generous donation,” Smith said, predicting that the hands-on learning afforded by the opening of the new program would benefit both the college and dairy production in Vermont.

“A strong dairy program supports a strong dairy industry,” he added.

Sigler, a former Dartmouth trustee who served on the board of General Electric, moved to Norwich after retiring as CEO of Stamford, Conn.-based Champion International Paper in 1996. He bought Norwich Farms from the family of farmers who owned it and converted it to a nonprofit research center — a move that the town opposed, seeking to avoid exempting the property from taxes.

Subsequently, Sigler and his wife, Margaret, were plaintiffs in a 2002 lawsuit against the town that reached the Vermont Supreme Court, where the couple won a decision allowing them tax-free status.

Reached over the telephone Thursday, Sigler said he would continue to live in Norwich at his Beaver Meadow Road home, as well as manage the Montcalm Golf Club, the golf course he owns in Enfield. He said he donated the farm to VTC because he had worked with the college in the past, which made the institution a logical choice to take over as he grew older.

“Why did I give something away?” he asked rhetorically. “I’m 84 years old, OK? It was time to find a way to put (the farm) somewhere that made a lot of sense, that made me happy.”

Sigler said he didn’t know the value of the gift, but estimated that the house not included in VTC’s assessment would likely go on the market at around $400,000.

The potential impact on the town’s property tax intake is unclear, as Norwich officials said Thursday that the gift to VTC may include some land not exempted in the 2002 decision. If that were the case, then additional land on the town’s property tax rolls may be shielded from taxation under the auspices of tax-exempt VTC.Messages left for Town Manager Neil Fulton and Selectboard Chairwoman Linda Cook weren’t returned Thursday.

Meanwhile, VTC’s Norwich venture is taking place after a year in which the college, citing a decline in enrollment and state funding, eliminated the positions of eight full-time faculty and many more adjuncts.

“It’s a challenge,” Smith said of the task of managing VTC’s finances while opening a branch in Norwich, but he noted that the college already has a working farm in Randolph whose operations may expand to more profitable beef production. “Over time our financial position will strengthen.”

The land trust’s money will help smooth the transition, paying for minor renovations to the farm buildings to meet college standards, Smith said.

Pete Howe, operations director for the college’s agriculture institute, said the facility would likely pay for itself.

“We’re going to set it up to be sustainable,” he said, noting that the college’s primary goal was to educate, not make a profit.

A 2015 VTC graduate, Erick Lafferty, will own and manage the herd, paying most of the associated costs, including feed and veterinary care — an arrangement that allows him to pursue a small profit margin and that spares the college much of the operational burden.

The students will work from early Monday morning to Friday evening, gaining firsthand experience of the management of a dairy farm, and Lafferty will care for the herd on weekends.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Lafferty, who graduated with a degree in Dairy Farm Management Technology. “Most people ... don’t get chances like this straight out of college.”

The budding dairy farmer said he planned to expand the herd of 20 milking cows to 48, and to have an additional 40 to 60 heifers.

His hope is to raise “top-notch” cattle that he may bring to shows as a means of building his farming reputation.

He invited Norwich residents — and anyone else, for that matter — to drop by the farm anytime to visit.

VTC agriculture professor Chris Dutton, who serves as director of the agriculture institute, said he had posed the idea of a hands-on “intensive dairy semester” to his students this spring and had received a positive response.

“Get us away from our English and math classes while we’re learning our dairy,” Dutton recalled hearing from his pupils.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.