Bowdoinham Easement Preserves Habitat and Farmland
For Immediate Release: June 29, 2010
Tim Glidden, Land For Maine's Future
Maine State Planning Office
38 State House Station
Phone: 207-624-6200 Fax: email@example.com
Bowdoinham, Maine. Lovers of locally produced organic food celebrated the news of the recent Land for Maine’s Future project protecting 83.5 acres of active coastal farmland in Bowdoinham which also represents a significant victory in conserving important fish and wildlife habitat. A wide-ranging partnership including the Maine Farmland Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Land for Maine’s Future Program, the Maine Departments of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources.
The protected land includes 4,500 feet of shoreline and habitat for waterfowl, migratory fish and bald eagles, as well as the globally rare Eaton’s bur-marigold, a small marsh plant with golden blossoms. The parcel is within the Kennebec Estuary which includes nearly a quarter of Maine’s tidal marshland and serves as critical habitat for migratory birds and fish. The Kennebec Estuary has long been a priority for The Nature Conservancy and other conservation groups.
The property is owned by Alan Kelley and his mother Erla of Bowdoinham, but much of the highly productive farmland is leased to “incubator farms”— small, start-up agricultural outfits that are making a go at furthering Maine’s agricultural heritage. These incubators include small organic farms and a local community-supported agriculture farm that supplies 80 local members with produce. Fruits and vegetables from the farms can be found at inns, restaurants and farmer’s markets from Brunswick to Portland.
“Over the years, my father must have told me hundreds of times how special the soil was, and how much it meant to him to have the land farmed,” Alan Kelley said. “The easement allowed us to maintain our family connection to the land, and at the same time, do our best to ensure that it will remain for future generations of farmers who will share my family's love for the land, and my father's appreciation for the soil.”
Mainers have farmed this land for more than 70 years, but until recently, George Christopher feared he might end up being the last farmer in town. Christopher, who has farmed the Kelley land organically since 1996 and subleases to 14 incubator farms, said that the easement will be “a blessing” to the farm families.
It’s a beautiful spot with globally important soil and access to both fresh water for irrigation and the best produce market in the state. The Kelley family has long been committed to keeping the land in agricultural use, but farmers always faced the risk that this beautiful spot could someday be sold for house lots, Christopher said.
“It’s a glorious place. How many people get to watch windsurfers in the bay while they’re weeding?” he said.
The project was partially funded by a $510,000 grant from the Land for Maine’s Future Program, as well as grants from the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and the Landowner Incentive Program (U.S Fish & Wildlife Service). The Maine Farmland Trust will hold the conservation easement, which was facilitated with assistance and funding from The Nature Conservancy and the Maine Departments of Agriculture, Conservation and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
“The Land for Maine’s Future Program made a key investment in Maine’s farm future by protecting this property,” said Agriculture Commissioner and LMF Board Member Seth Bradstreet. “The project is at least a triple win – supporting new farmers, bringing new customers to fresh Maine produce and protecting water quality in one of the most productive estuaries on the East Coast.”
“This is not only an important piece of farmland, but an important piece of the local farm economy, and we’re pleased to be part of it,” said John Piotti, executive director of Maine Farmland Trust. “It’s another example of how preserving good farmland is critical to creating affordable opportunities for farmers.”
“The Kelley farm has nearly a mile of water frontage on Merrymeeting Bay with vast wild rice flats providing critical waterfowl feeding areas and some of the finest farming soils in Maine. This project ensures that both the wildlife and agricultural values will be protected,” said William Brune, director of land protection for the Conservancy in Maine.
At Six River Farm, Nate Drummond and Gabrielle Gosselin grow “everything from arugula to zucchini” on 11 acres of alluvial fields that run right up to the edge of the bay, Drummond said.
Six River, and all of the incubator farms, are certified by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. These farming methods, combined with the forested buffer along the shore protect the bay from runoff that might accompany other types of development.
“This is a stunning example of how creative partnerships can help preserve Maine’s natural assets to the benefit of everyone—farmers, residents and wildlife alike,” Brune said.
Other farmers using the property include Fairwinds Farm, Fish Bowl Farm, Locally Known Foods, and Small Wonder Organics.
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