Northern Transplant Takes Root In Florida

Matt and Linda Lussier had a five-year plan. They left Vermont in 1993 to help Matt’s parents renovate a dairy in Alachua County. After five years, they would head home and resume life there where Matt worked as an accountant and Linda was employed by the Girl Scouts of America.

But it wasn’t long after they arrived in Florida that they decided to start a new life. There have been no regrets.

“To move down here was a big decision,” Matt said. “Not only was it a huge climate change, but you’re leaving family. Vermont’s always going to be home but I wouldn’t move back. This is now my home, my kids’ home. We love the area.”

From the beginning, the Lussiers had a challenge with neighbors frustrated over the condition of the dairy they purchased. Matt and Linda worked to put a new look on the farm that started with a general cleanup and construction of new facilities.

Along the way came efforts to win over skeptical neighbors, including one who had shown an especially cold shoulder. One day, Matt saw the man cutting hay with a rainstorm on the way. Matt grabbed his father and some of the dairy’s employees and began helping.

“He came up after and said ‘what do I owe you?’ ” Matt said. “We said ‘you owe us nothing. We saw you needed help so we came over.’ His whole attitude toward us changed.”

Matt recalls another time during the 2004 hurricane season when a large tree had fallen across a busy highway. An Alachua County deputy arrived to caution drivers about the danger ahead.

“He could have been there all night long but he obviously needed to be other places helping people,” Matt said.

Matt used some farm equipment to safely remove the tree from harm’s way.

“We don’t do these things because we’re trying to increase the image of the dairy,” Matt said. “I’ve been behind the 8-ball before and people have helped me. That’s what being in the community is about.”

They might be a long way from Vermont but they have found a place they not only call home but where they truly feel at home. Linda teaches youth education classes at their church and Matt devotes time as a coach.

Best of all, they have seen their children grow up in a community that stresses strong values and has a vested interest in them.

“I feel that there are other people who have an interest in my children and I think that’s really important,” Linda said. “They say it takes a village to raise a child. It takes two good parents but it also takes a good community.”