Even after the Freeport Conservation Trust was approved for nearly $200,000 in federal and state grant funding, board members knew they would have to raise a bit more for their Winterwood Farm project.

The trust is no stranger to fundraising – its entire annual operating budget of about $60,000 comes from donors – but it decided to try something new this time: crowdfunding.

And why not? Crowdfunding has become the go-to amateur fundraising platform for everything from medical bills to movie production.

Dozens of websites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe are devoted to hosting fundraisers.

The trust opted for a lesser-known site called Worthwild that is geared directly to supporting environmental or sustainable projects.

In about 45 days, the trust has raised more than $21,000 from 101 donors for the Winterwood Farm project.

“We had no idea what to expect with this,” said Katrina Van Dusen, executive director of the Freeport Conservation Trust, which has preserved 1,500 access of land through purchases and easements since 1977. “But it ended up being a nice way for people to own this project in a way they might not have otherwise.”

The money raised through crowdfunding, coupled with grants from Land for Maine’s Future and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranch Land Protection program, will be used to purchase a conservation easement for Winterwood Farm, a 46-acre horse farm on Webster Road.

The farm’s owners, Bob and Simone Rodgers, had approached the trust to see if it was interested in a partnership with them on the conservation effort. The Rodgers were nearing retirement and didn’t want to see their land developed if they chose to sell, particularly because the farm sits on top of an aquifer that supplies 90 percent of Freeport’s public drinking water.

“We’ve seen so much development around and just didn’t want to see that happen,” Bob Rodgers said, adding that he’s had offers to buy the land.

The easement, which would be held by the Freeport trust, ensures that the property will remain farmland in perpetuity no matter who the owner is. It also gives the Rodgerses some money to help them into retirement.

Other farmers involved with the conservation trust said easements like this are great for the farming community.

“Easements are long-term commitments to the community – commitments to a place and stewardship of it, which will not only benefit the land, but also those who farm on it and live near it,” Steve Burger and Sarah Wiederkehr, who operate Winter Hill Farm, said in a statement.

Van Dusen said she subscribes to an online listserv open to all Maine Land Trust members and said crowdfunding for conservation projects seemed rare.

“I couldn’t find anyone else that was doing this,” she said, noting that the Freeport trust could use crowdfunding in the future.

Added board member Polly Smith: “I’m not sure we’ll use crowd-funding exclusively, but it hits a certain audience.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or:

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Twitter: @PPHEricRussell