From milk to malt: Charlotte’s Nordic Farms gets new owners

The Citizen file photo
Formerly a prominent dairy farm, Nordic Farms sits along U.S. Route 7 in Charlotte. Under new ownership, it’s poised to remain in agriculture supporting Vermont’s growing craft beer industry.

By LISA SCAGLIOTTI

A Monkton malt producer along with Burlington hotel owners have announced their purchase of the iconic Nordic Farms property along Route 7 in Charlotte and their plans to keep it in agriculture as part of Vermont’s growing craft beer industry.

In a news release Tuesday, Peterson Quality Malt and owners of Hotel Vermont said they have purchased the 583-acre property overlooking Lake Champlain. Their goal is to produce malt to increase Peterson’s ability to supply Vermont breweries with a key ingredient from a local source.

“As the demand for Vermont-grown and malted grains continues to increase beyond what I can produce in Monkton, the opportunity to expand to the iconic Nordic Farm is something I could not turn down. The new partnership with Hotel Vermont’s owners is turning a dream into reality. We share common values and goals, and I am humbled to be the steward bringing this historic property into the future,” said Andrew Peterson, who has been malting barley for Vermont brewers and distillers on his farm in Monkton since 2014.

Malted barley is essential to producing beer and many of Vermont’s 64 breweries seek local sources for this key ingredient.

The announcement included these words of support from Todd Haire of Foam Brewers in Burlington: “We enthusiastically support Andrew and his efforts to provide freshly malted grains sourced from local farms for us to brew with, and the Vermont terroir comes through in the taste of our beers.”

Peterson and several of the partners in Hotel Vermont purchased the property previously owned by Charlotte farmer and real estate developer Clark Hinsdale III. Until 2017, the farm was an active dairy which fell into financial peril and ended operations earlier this year when its herd of 236 cows was sold at auction.

At the time, Hinsdale hinted that Vermont’s burgeoning brewery industry might be the answer to keep the land with its prominent red-roofed buildings in agricultural use.

The Citizen was unable to reach Hinsdale for comment.

According to the Tuesday announcement, Yankee Farm Credit of Middlebury facilitated the transaction; it did not disclose the sale price.

In addition to Peterson, the buyers group includes Jay Canning, founder of Westport Hospitality in Burlington, and Matt Canning, food and beverage director at Hotel Vermont.

Located on Cherry Street in downtown Burlington, Hotel Vermont is a modern independently owned 125-room hotel that strives to exude a Vermont vibe from its energy-efficient construction and materials to its furnishings and offerings in its restaurant.

“We see this partnership as a natural fit, since we have so many existing connections to farmers and brewers,” Canning said in the announcement of the deal. “With Andrew, we will execute a master plan for the property, consisting of several agricultural uses in addition to the 350 acres planted with barley and other grains,” He added that plans include “aquaculture, a bakery, and vegetable and flower gardens.”

The announcement said that Peterson Quality Malts will continue production in Monkton until the a new malthouse can be opened in Charlotte with the goal of that happening in the spring.

In a July interview with Vermont Business Magazine, Peterson estimated that 99 percent of the malted grain – mostly barley – used by Vermont breweries comes from Idaho or Saskatchewan, Canada, and other out-of-state sources.

He admitted that the malts produced by his operation cost 30 to 100 percent more than out-of-state malts. But for some local brewers, having the ingredient made from Vermont barley or wheat is a big selling point.

Peterson’s operation is featured in a video by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets explaining the process of producing malt from grains. It is online on the VTAgriculture channel on YouTube.com.

In the clip, Peterson says he appreciates how agriculture is evolving in Vermont and that he hopes to play a role in that evolution.

“In a time of difficult change for the Vermont agricultural world, it is very gratifying to be able to work with and alongside so many Vermont farmers.  I am very grateful for all of the support and encouragement I have received,” Peterson said.

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