Norwich foundation announces deal to buy creamery property from VTC

  • The Norwich Farm Creamery in Norwich seen on Monday, March 15, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger VtDigger — Glenn Russell

  • Farmers Chris Gray, left, and Laura Brown in one of the empty cow barns at the Norwich Farm Creamery in Norwich on Monday, March 15, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger GLENN RUSSELL

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/21/2021 2:47:22 PM
Modified: 12/21/2021 9:22:18 PM

NORWICH — A nonprofit foundation that supports Norwich Farm Creamery has come to terms with Vermont Technical College to purchase the creamery property.

The agreement, which officials hope will close by spring, is designed to end a series of disputes over the 6.2-acre property, which includes a home, a milking barn and a dairy processing facility. The creamery’s owners, Chris Gray and Laura Brown, would remain and expand the operation.

After a lengthy negotiation, the Norwich Farm Foundation has agreed to buy the property for $1,065,000. Of that, the foundation must raise $250,000 in donations as a down payment, Omer Trajman, a member of the foundation’s board, said Tuesday.

“I feel like the commitment and persistence that the foundation has had in trying to find a path forward to purchase the property ... hopefully gave people the perspective that they could end all the lawsuits,” Trajman said.

Last spring, the creamery operators took VTC to court, asserting that the college had reneged on its 2015 partnership with the creamery.

The college then pursued eviction proceedings against the creamery when its lease expired at the end of June.

The legal maneuvering portended a messy end to what had seemed a promising partnership.

The entire property, a 2015 gift to VTC from Norwich resident Andrew Sigler, consisted of the creamery parcel, a separate home on 2.2 acres and 353 acres of surrounding pasture, cropland  and forest.

The initial plan had involved making artisanal cheese and other value-added dairy products at the Turnpike Road farm with the assistance of VTC students, who would learn as they worked.

The end of the partnership also broke up the farm. VTC sold the separate home this year to a couple new to town, Trajman said, and the pastures and forest land, which straddle Turnpike Road, now belong to the Upper Valley Land Trust, which has leased them to two local farmers.

In the meantime, the creamery has continued operations. Using milk from Billings Farm in Woodstock, Gray and Brown produce milk, yogurt, ricotta cheese and ice cream for sale mainly in the Upper Valley. The creamery produced 150,000 pounds in 2020, the Norwich Farm Foundation said in a news release.

Plans call for expanding that production to 350,000 pounds and to operate “educational and other programming to benefit Norwich and the Upper Valley” over the next five years.

That plan also includes developing a herd of 25 milking cows, Trajman said, but closing the real estate purchase is the first priority.

The parties have ample incentives to complete the transfer. Gray and Brown would no longer face eviction and could get on with their work, and the college could use the money.

“We are rebooting our agriculture degree program on the Randolph campus and have significant financial needs there,” VTC President Patricia Moulton said in an email. “We could funnel revenue to scholarships, other student support, deferred maintenance, new learning systems, so many areas of need! We are a state college which has historically been underfunded and any revenue from non-tuition and state sources is precious to us!”

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

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