The Belter Family Farm

A Glimpse of Yesterday, Today

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Thursday October 27, 2011

According to “The History of Burlington and South Burlington,” Chittenden County Student Research Project – 2010, Vermont Barn Census, in 1870 there were 104 farms in South Burlington. In 1880 there were 88 and as late as 1945, there were122 farms. Right up until the middle of the 20th century, South Burlington’s economy was based primarily on dairy farming. However, as Burlington became more populated and focused on manufacturing and “business” oriented occupations, the need for housing increased. Many farmers in the area found it more profitable to sell off their farmland to accommodate the growing population. This trend continues and presently, there are four working farms left in South Burlington.

The Auclair Family Farm located on Hinesburg Road offers boarding of horses, training, riding lessons, clinics and trails on which to ride. The University of Vermont Billings Farm on Spear Street, recently sold off their dairy research herd, but report that their CREAM and EQUUS programs will remain for years to come. Only two other family dairy farms remain in South Burlington. The recently opened Bread and Butter Farm on Cheese Factory Road, is recognized for preserving what had been a family farm owned by the Leduc Family for over 100 years. The conservation of the farm will guarantee our community the presence of agricultural land use into the future.

The other remaining dairy farm in South Burlington is, likely, less known, tucked away in the northeast corner of South Burlington along the Winooski River. It is the 270- acre Belter Family Farm. John and Joyce Belter, along with their son Todd, have owned and worked their dairy farm for 36 years, managing a herd of 200 dairy cows and 200 heifers. The farm has been home to numerous families over the years and the Belters believe its history goes back to the late 1700s when Ethan and Ira Allen were its original owners. However, over time, the original buildings have been replaced with newer buildings as the needs of the farm have changed.

Its location on the Winooski River provides the farm with rich “river bottom” soil, allowing the Belters to grow corn and alfalfa for their herd. They “cut” hay on various farm fields throughout South Burlington’s southeast-quadrant as well as in Burlington, Williston and on St Michael College’s lowlands along the banks on the other side of the Winooski River. They do this without a noticeable presence. They now purchase feed they previously grew on nearby farms now lost to development. John shared that he recently became a grandfather and hopes his grandson, John Henry, will continue the family’s heritage into the future.

I wonder… will the changing priorities and pressures of the community today and tomorrow allow room for John Henry and others who hope to continue what was once the heart of South Burlington’s past?

SOURCE: Elizabeth Milizia, Contributor

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Other Paper welcomes its newest  contributor, Elizabeth Milizia.  Elizabeth will be featured regularly providing a look into South Burlington’s history.