Have You Met South Hero’s Newest Farmers?
The Landon Farm has a new vibe these days, and we are so excited about it! Farmers Phelan O’Connor and Kelsey Chandler have just moved to South Hero and are buying the Landon Farm. We hope that you’ll enjoy getting to know them as much as we have, and give them a big welcome to our community.
After being introduced to farming at Warren Wilson College, and several years of farming with Fairfield farmers Tyler & Melanie Webb at Stony Pond Farm, an organic dairy and beef operation, Kelsey and Phelan are bringing their operation, Pigasus Meats to South Hero.
"We fell in love with farming during our time together at the Warren Wilson College Farm.
Through our experiences there and working since then with other farms... we became committed to farming as our life's work."
A Unique Farm Product
Kelsey and Phelan began Pigasus Meats in 2013, on leased land in Fairfield. Right away, they wanted to distinguish their product and introduce customers to it in a fun way. So Phelan got busy in the kitchen, developing signature recipes for their beer bratwurst and lemon and herb sausage. Their breakfast sausage, developed by Vermont Artisan Meats, became a star product at the Burlington Farmers’ Market. Each Saturday they would load up with pork, fresh bread, eggs, and a grill, and sell breakfast sausage sandwiches at the market.
They also sold packaged retail cuts for customers to take home. By the second year they were selling out every market, and they needed room to grow. By 2015, Kelsey and Phelan were ready to purchase their own land.
It Couldn’t Have Happened Without…
While looking for land for their farm, Kelsey enrolled in an accelerated nursing program in Massachusetts, and began working as a nurse at the UVM Medical Center in April. They also began working with Sam Smith, a farm business planner at the Intervale Center, who helped them assess and improve their business skills and farm plan. As soon as Kelsey got her nursing certification the couple came back to northern Vermont and began to search in earnest for a permanent home for Pigasus Meats. This is where Vermont Land Trust, the current owner of the farm, and South Hero Land Trust got involved.
"We see farming as a way to be proactive stewards of the land, provide humane animal husbandry, produce high-quality food products through a pastured system, and engage actively in our community. We are very excited and honored to make our home in South Hero and become members of its agricultural community."
At the Last Minute
During the winter of 2016-17 the tenants of the Landon Farm, East Shore Vineyard, made the difficult decision not to purchase the property. VLT and SHLT wanted to provide any new farmers of the land the opportunity to take advantage of the summer growing season, so we initiated a search for new farmers right away. VLT staff Jon Ramsay approached several farmers enrolled in VLT’s Farmland Access Program whose farm plans were a good match for the land base, and invited them to visit the farm and submit proposals for buying it. After a careful process, VLT and SHLT staff selected Pigasus Meats to buy the farm.
"It is exciting to have Kelsey and Phelan as stewards and owners of the Landon Farm. We have confidence that they will bring a vibrancy to both the Landon Farm and to South Hero."
~Bob Chutter, SHLT Board President
Piglets, Chicks, and a Dog Named Jenny
The Landon Farm provides Pigasus Meats with a great opportunity to invest in their own land and grow their business. With acres of pasture and woodlands, the Landon Farm is well suited for a diversified grazing operation, and Phelan and Kelsey plan to raise pastured pork and laying hens on the property. Pigasus Meats' goal is to build soil fertility while raising high quality pork and eggs, which they hope to sell through local farmers’ markets, retail outlets, and eventually a new farm-stand.
Kelsey, Phelan, and their dog Jenny moved to the farm in early May 2017. Their first pigs arrived soon after, and are happily grazing in pasture near the farmstead. We are lucky to have Kelsey and Phelan joining our special Island community!
Written by Emily Alger, May 2017