Thirty-eight acres of pasture and woodland on Webster Road in Freeport never will be developed, and the farmstead adjacent to the land must be included in any future sale – all the result of a four-year quest on the part of Freeport Conservation Trust.

The closing on the easement at Winterwood Farm was done last Wednesday, at a cost of $267,782, far below the farm’s market value of more than $1 million. But owners Bob and Simone Rodgers, who board horses on the property, are pleased with the conservation easement.

They summed up their thoughts in a statement to the conservation trust.

“After a longer than expected process, we are very happy to have our land protected forever,” they said in a joint statement. “We have been improving and maintaining our farm for 26 years. To know that it will not be part of the urban sprawl we have seen all around us gives us great peace and satisfaction. We are very grateful to all who supported us financially and with their time, energy and perseverance. We would especially like to thank Freeport Conservation Trust for their support throughout the process; we could not have accomplished this without them.”

Polly Smith, a trustee of Freeport Conservation Trust, explained the elements of a conservation easement.

“A conservation easement is a legal recorded document that stipulates what can and can’t be done,” Smith said. “This one on the farm says that the open farmland can never be developed, and the homestead must always be sold with the field – they can’t be separated,”

Smith said that Land for Maine’s Future contributed $105,000 toward the $267,782 easement cost and the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service kicked in $133,891, Freeport Conservation Trsut, with help from Maine Farmland Trust, covered most of the balance. Freeport Conservation Trust also did a public fundraising campaign, and raised more than $20,000 through the crowdfunding site.

“The owners still own the farm,” Smith said. “When they go to sell it, it will be sold to these restrictions. This land is valuable for farming. (Simone) has been meticulous about managing the soil and not overgrazing. We hold the easement, so we have the responsibility to monitor the property once a year to make sure it is honored.”

Freeport Conservation Trust secures easements for scenic land along waterways and the coastline, as well as preserving productive locations such as Winterwood Farm. Sometimes, as in the farm’s case, it’s a long haul.

“It has been a four-years-long process to secure permanent protection of this valuable and scenic farmland on Webster Road,” Kathleen Damon, conservation trust president, announced in a press release. “This transaction means that an additional, important piece of farmland will stay open and future farmers will not have to compete with developers to purchase the property.”

The farm has soils that are designated “prime” and of “statewide importance” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It sits atop the aquifer supplying 90 percent of Freeport’s public drinking water.

Winterwood Farm in Freeport is now under a conservation easement, arranged by Freeport Conservation Trust.

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