September 23, 2010

Deal saves the farm

Agriculture may resume on the Fancy property under a plan that protects it from development.

By Ann S. Kim
Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH - Margery and Leroy Fancy moved their family to Ash Swamp Road in the summer of 1954.

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The Fancy Farm in Scarborough is showing its age, with faded paint, loose roof shingles and broken barn windowpanes. The farmland is especially suited for vegetables, but it also could be used for fruit, flowers, eggs, chickens and other animals.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Wild turkeys cross a field Wednesday at Fancy Farm, which hasn’t been active for about a decade. To protect the land from development, the Fancy family worked with the town and the Maine Farmland Trust to arrange an agricultural easement. The trust holds the easements and monitors the properties.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

She had grown up on a farm on Payne Road, and he was a city boy who learned fast. They ran a "gentleman's farm" on their property, with large gardens, some cows, and acres of hayfields around the 200-year-old farmhouse.

It has been about a decade since the property was last farmed, but it may be farmed again in the near future under an arrangement involving Margery Fancy and her family, the town and the Maine Farmland Trust.

The town has agreed to pay Margery Fancy $127,000 for the development rights to the land so an agricultural easement can be established. That means the 13-acre property will be valued at $138,000 -- far more affordable for a potential buyer than the farm's $265,000 appraised value with development rights.

The Maine Farmland Trust facilitates such deals, holds the easements and monitors the properties.

Margery Fancy, now 93, lived on the property until she moved into a nursing home late last year, more than three decades after the death of her husband. Neither her son, John Fancy of Appleton, nor her daughter, Joan Sandidge of Wayne, wanted to see the land developed.

"It's a good farming spot. It made sense to try to preserve it as a useful farm," John Fancy said.

The siblings also liked the idea of preserving land next to Sewell Woods, a 35-acre preserve with about 1½ miles of trails. The Fancy property will have an easement to allow the development of a perimeter trail that connects to Sewell Woods.

Today, Ash Swamp Road still has a woodsy feel despite all the homes alongside it. Newer homes face the Fancy property, which is showing signs of age with its peeling paint, loose roof shingles and broken barn windowpanes.

The land is especially suited for vegetables, but it could also be used for fruit, flowers, eggs, chickens and other animals, said Nina Young, lands project coordinator for the Maine Farmland Trust. She said a farm stand and a creamery also are possibilities for the property, which could be certified as organic immediately.

"It's in an area where there are great markets. It's going to be affordable. It's a nice piece of land that has proven productivity," she said.

Young said there already is interest in the property, but it is too early to disclose the identities of potential buyers. Her organization runs Maine FarmLink, a matchmaking service for farm buyers and sellers.

The Fancy Farm is the latest example of farmland preservation efforts in Scarborough.

The Scarborough Land Conservation Trust bought the 434-acre Broadturn Farm and leases it to farmers who are chosen through a proposal process. And the owners of Deering Farm, a neighboring farm of about 300 acres, donated an agricultural easement that is held by the Maine Farmland Trust.

The Town Council voted this month to buy the development rights to Fancy Farm. Young expects the deal to be completed next month.

The purchase was recommended unanimously by the town's Parks and Conservation Land Board. The board's vice chairman, Paul Austin, who is also vice president of the Scarborough Conservation Land Trust, said he would like to see more projects like Fancy Farm creating agricultural activity in Scarborough.

"A 13-acre farm is a really nice size," he said. "It's a size that can be affordable for a small farmer, but's it's still big enough to be a useful farm."

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:


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