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Mitchell Ledge Farm gets permanent protection
Freeport Conservation Trust (FCT) has successfully completed its 2-1/2 year project to conserve Mitchell Ledge Farm, a well-known Freeport landmark where registered Belted Galloway cattle are raised by the farm owners, Mary and Andy LeMaistre. Mitchell Ledge Farm is Freeport's largest working farm, and its permanent conservation has been a long-term goal of both the Freeport Conservation Trust and the farm's owners.
Edward Brainard, President of FCT, announced the organization has purchased a conservation easement to protect 105 acres of Mitchell Ledge Farm and received a donation of a second easement from the LeMaistres covering an additional 27 acres. Together the easements will protect scenic pastures, hay fields, woodlands, streams and wetlands from future development or subdivision, forever. The easements granted by the LeMaistres will also allow FCT to create trails for public access through woods around farm fields and along Kelsey Brook, which runs through the property. FCT has secured trail easements from six additional abutting property owners that will, once the trail is created, make it possible to walk through the woods from Mitchell Ledge Farm to FCT's Calderwood property on Maquoit Bay.
"We are extremely pleased to protect this scenic Freeport landmark and to provide access to trails that will allow the public to enjoy the property and to reach other FCT trails," said FCT Trustee Frederick Woodruff. "We are very grateful for the support and contributions from Freeport residents that made this all possible. We also value the LeMaistre's foresight and conservation spirit in partnering with us to ensure the preservation of this unique property as a working farm."
The fields and forests of Mitchell Ledge Farm have been farmed and harvested for many generations, benefiting the local community," said Andy LeMaistre.
"Mary and I decided that granting an agricultural conservation easement over the property was the best way to ensure that the land would remain productive into the future. We appreciate the generous support of all our Freeport friends and neighbors and the endeavors of all those individuals representing local, state, and federal government agencies, and members of FCT. It took a tremendous effort by all participants to successfully complete this project."
FCT raised more than $900,000 to purchase the easement, the largest fundraising endeavor the organization has undertaken in its 30-year history. Once funds were secured through the Land for Maine's Future Program and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, another 100-plus local donors contributed to the fundraising effort, including Freeport residents George and Joyce Denney and Joe and Carol Wishcamper who made generous leadership gifts. In addition, FCT received grants from the Town of Freeport's Land Bank Fund, the Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust, the Davis Conservation Foundation, and the Libra Foundation.
"The protection of Mitchell Ledge Farm will provide long-term benefits to the community including beautiful pastoral views from Flying Point Road and the opportunity to use the woodland trails," said FCT President Edward Brainard. "We are grateful for the donations and grants from many individuals, the Town of Freeport, the foundations, state and federal programs, as well as for the neighbors who granted trail easements through their properties."
Land for Maine's Future program spokesperson Tim Glidden enthusiastically endorsed the project. "The LMF board was drawn to the Mitchell Ledge Farm project by the wonderful opportunity to protect a working farm while also providing recreational opportunities in this rapidly growing part of Maine. These landscapes are at the core of Maine's heritage."
"The USDA Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program plays an important role in ensuring the lands stay in agriculture and provide open space for future generations," said Joyce Swartzendruber, State Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. "Keeping this land in agriculture will help preserve its agricultural, historical and natural resources. We congratulate the LeMaistres and FCT on achieving this goal."
Freeport Conservation Trust invites the public to Mitchell Ledge Farm, located approximately 2 miles from downtown Freeport at 47 Flying Point Road, on November 1 from 4-6pm to celebrate completion of the conservation project. The event will include walks on farm property from 4-5 pm, along with refreshments, entertainment, displays, and speakers.
Freeport Conservation Trust is a non-profit organization founded in 1977 with a mission to protect, preserve, and connect open space lands and to provide public access to natural areas in Freeport. With the addition of Mitchell Ledge Farm, the Trust has protected 48 properties totaling 1,364 acres of land, including significant farmland, shore land, and woodlands.
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