SCARBOROUGH – Broadturn Farm, which is owned by the Scarborough Land Trust, has not only become one of the largest organic farms in the region during the past 10 years, it is also become an economic engine providing quantifiable benefits to the community.

That’s according to research conducted by Paul Austin, president of the land trust. His research shows that more than 5,000 people locally benefit directly from the operation of the farm, which is located near the intersection of Hanson and Broadturn roads in rural Scarborough.

The land trust bought the 434-acre farm, which includes the original farm buildings, in 2004. It leases 275 acres to farmers John Bliss and Stacy Brenner, who are responsible for cultivating the fields and overall farm operations.

“Broadturn Farm is an incredible example of how land conservation has a powerful, positive impact on the local economy,” Austin said last week. “When we started looking more closely at how the community benefits from the farm, we had no idea how large the impact would be. We were amazed.”

The information collected by Austin shows that Broadturn Farm provides jobs and income for more than 80 people. It has more than 700 customers and overall directly benefits almost 5,000 people in the region.

The farm has a community supported agriculture program, which provides certified organic vegetables to 200 families in the community. It also has a program that provides 50 members with field-grown flowers each year and its own flower design studio – Flora*Bliss – that offers both pre-made bouquets and single stems.

According to Austin, the farm also hosts a dozen weddings a year, and its education programs include a summer farm camp for kids. In addition, the farm subleases cropland to the Snell Family Farm in Buxton and barters its annual haying with another local farmer.

“The Scarborough Land Trust’s conservation of this beautiful property provided affordable land for new farmers to start a farm business in southern Maine,” Brenner said. “Our organic, sustainable and community-based approach to farming has been the foundation of our success, and we have worked closely with the land trust to advance shared conservation values on this land.”

Austin added, “When we purchased this property back in 2004, we had no idea it would become one of the largest organic farms in Greater Portland. John and Stacy have done an outstanding job with this land, and we are lucky to have them in Scarborough.”

The Scarborough Land Trust is one of the few in Maine to lease conserved farmland to local farmers. What makes the partnership with Bliss and Brenner even more special is that the duo has received numerous conservation awards for their farming practices, according to the land trust.

In 2010, for instance, they received the Conservation Farm of the Year Award from the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, and in 2009 they were the grand award winner of ecoMaine’s eco-Excellence awards.

To date, the Scarborough Land Trust has protected more than 1,200 acres in town, including the Libby River Farm, Sewell Woods and the Fuller Farm. Earlier this year, the land trust also signed a purchase-and-sale agreement for the 126-acre Benjamin Farm on Pleasant Hill Road.

It needs to raise $2.5 million by Dec. 31 to permanently protect this farm, which is one of the last, large open spaces left in this densely populated part of Scarborough. According to the land trust, the Benjamin Farm consists of open fields, woods and wetlands and is a little more than a mile from Higgins Beach.

It also abuts the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and sits on an aquifer that feeds the headwaters of the Spurwink River. It is part of a wildlife and wetlands corridor that reaches from the refuge to the land trust’s Libby River Farm property off Black Point Road.

While detailing the economic benefits of the Broadturn Farm, the land trust also pointed out that its overall land conservation efforts are important to the local economy in other ways.

“Property values tend to be higher in areas where there is conserved land,” the trust said in a press release. “In addition, the cost of land conservation is less expensive than residential development. Even after accounting for new tax revenue, one residential unit actually results in a net cost of $1,194 in town services.”

And Austin said, while the “Scarborough Land Trust is committed to protecting our treasured natural heritage by conserving land for the public benefit, we are also pleased that our work is making significant impacts to Scarborough’s economy.”

The Scarborough Land Trust is celebrating 10 years of ownership of the Broadturn Farm, which has become one of the largest organic farms in Greater Portland.  Broadturn Farm

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