KEESEVILLE, NY (Aug. 16, 2017)—Using a lease-to-own model structured by the Open Space Institute (OSI) and OSI’s Klipper Family Fund, the popular North Country Creamery has reached a critical milestone on becoming a permanent part of the Central Champlain Valley’s agricultural heritage. The creamery’s talented young operators, Ashlee Kleinhammer and Steven Googin, have taken ownership of the property, having leased the property from OSI for the past four years.
The 115-acre North Country Creamery, located on Mace Chasm Road in the town of Keeseville, NY, is a small-scale, premium dairy which produces cheese, milk and yogurt from an on-farm, grass-fed milking herd. In addition to the dairy operations, Kleinhammer and Googin expanded their enterprise, opening the Clover Mead Cafe & Farmstore. The farmstore offers North Country Creamery dairy products, as well as a variety of farmstead, organic, and local produce, while the café serves baked goods and made-to-order sandwiches throughout the year.
“The cultivation of the North Country Creamery represents the best of farmland protection, stewardship and the development of promising young farming talent. And the creamery’s success as a thriving Champlain Valley farming operation honors and preserves the region’s treasured agricultural heritage,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of OSI. “We thank Nat Klipper for his vision and ongoing commitment to this spectacular landscape and preserving the local culture it supports.”
“OSI and the Klipper Family Fund were the most important factors leading us toward owning and operating our farmstead creamery,” said Kleinhammer. “Since land access is one of the biggest hurdles facing young and beginning farmers, we hope the opportunity created by these two organizations will serve as an example for land conservancies and philanthropists across our country. Our deepest appreciation goes out to OSI, Nat Klipper and the Klipper Family Fund for the faith and support they placed in us and this wonderful landscape.”
In 2012, OSI joined with philanthropist and longtime Champlain Valley supporter Nat Klipper in creating the Klipper Family Fund to preserve the rural culture and quality of life that makes the region unique—specifically, the land’s traditional working farms and forests, wildlands and open spaces.
The North Country Creamery property, which has been in continuous cultivation for more than 200 years, was purchased by OSI in 2013. OSI then leased it to Kleinhammer and Googin, allowing them to build their business while obtaining the credit and outside financing to purchase the land outright. On July 14, 2017, Kleinhammer and Googin purchased the property from OSI. A conservation easement protecting the land’s agricultural and natural resources will be held by the Lake Champlain Land Trust.
“This project permanently protects a thriving, historic farm and helps maintain the proud agricultural heritage and scenic beauty of Essex County,” said Chris Boget, Executive Director of Lake Champlain Land Trust. “People who appreciate locally-sourced, fresh produce will forever benefit from this conservation success story.”
Kleinhammer and Googin stressed the importance of supporting young farms, especially in light of trends within the farming community. “We are set to see nearly 100 million acres of US farmland change hands over the next five years, and the average age of the US farmer is almost 60 years old. Beyond the success of North Country Creamery, we have been able to foster our employees’ side businesses of small-scale market gardening and raising livestock, and we envision many more collaborations in the future.
Over the past five years, OSI’s Klipper Family Fund has helped to protect almost 3,300 acres in the Central Champlain Valley. The permanent protection of Champlain Valley farmland is creating an avenue for young farmers and helping to establish a protected corridor of working farms and forestland in the Keeseville farming community, a region known for its exceptional soils and natural resources.