An historic farm in Windham has been purchased by a group of four young farmers from Buxton.

Weeks Farm, on Highland Cliff Road, has been in the Weeks family since it was established by Lewis Weeks in the late-1920s, and was most recently managed by his grandson, Gerald Weeks. Bumbleroot Organic Farm in Buxton will be moving its operation to the property in late fall.

The 89-acre farm was recently protected by a conservation easement through the Maine Farmland Trust, a Belfast-based nonprofit dedicated to preserving and supporting working farms. On July 14, the trust held an open house at the farm, which was attended by the Weeks family and Windham’s state representatives.

Wendy Tobin, daughter of Gerald Weeks, said Wednesday that when her father died in October 2013, he “wanted to be sure my mom would be taken care of, but also wanted the farm to be preserved.” The farm was her father’s retirement account, she said. But Tobin and her sister, who no longer live in Maine, were struggling to find a buyer who could purchase the land at a fair price and assure the family it would stay a farm.

Adam Bishop, farmland protection project manager at Maine Farmland Trust, said the Weeks family first approached the organization a few years ago, but first expressed interest in obtaining a conservation easement last year.

The trust purchased the land in late March at market value (Bishop preferred not to disclose the sum), and then put a conservation easement on the land. The easement permanently preserves the land as a commercial farm, and prohibits future division of the property.

Once an agricultural easement is placed on the property, it significantly decreases the value of the land. This practice is used by the trust statewide to help farmers, who may not otherwise have the purchasing power to compete with developers, buy large parcels of land.

Selling the property ultimately took the family about three years.

“It wasn’t easy, it was emotionally intense, but ultimately it ended up being the best situation it could ever be,” Tobin said.

The trust received 10 bids for the property, but based on its resume and business plan, Bumbleroot Organic “stood out head and shoulders” above the rest, Bishop said. Although there were many qualified applicants, the Bumbleroot farmers became “the obvious choice,” as they’ve “been farming in the area and have established a lot of good connections. They’re ready to step in there this fall.”

Tobin said her father “would be thrilled with the four individuals who collectively are Bumbleroot because they’re educated, they’re mindful of the farm’s heritage and history, and they are professional farmers.”

The Buxton-based farmers are two couples in their late-20s and early-30s: Abby and Jeff Fisher and Ben Whalen and Melissa Law. They have been leasing two acres in Buxton since 2014.

They all met in Boulder, Colo., when Whalen and Jeff Fisher were interns on an organic farm and Abby Fisher and Melissa Law worked at local food initiatives that partnered with the farm. In 2013, wanting to be closer to their New England roots (three of the four are from the Northeast), they moved to Maine.

Whalen, who is from Massachusetts, developed his passion for working outside and growing food while working on a cattle ranch. Now, he said, he’s “trying to be part of the positive change that’s happening in revitalizing our agricultural system.”

This change, he said, is putting “a new focus on local, organic agriculture and creating communities around food.”

Whalen has worked on farms in five different states. What stands out about Maine is the support from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, which offers business classes and connects young farmers with older mentors. And, Portland “has a great … food scene,” Whalen said, and one that’s supportive of local farmers.

Bumbleroot has already established strong roots in Portland. Now in the peak of summer, they’re busy selling organic kale, radishes and other vegetables, along with flowers, at farmers markets. In the spring, they sell CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). Families pay up front to the farm for 20 weeks’ worth of flowers or veggies, then receive fresh produce throughout the summer. The farm also supplies produce to a dozen restaurants in and around Portland, including David’s in Monument Square and the tapas restaurant Sur Lie on Free Street.

When the growing season slows down in mid-October, Whalen said, the farmers will start to transition to their new Windham home.

“It feels really good to move forward with a permanent space,” Whalen said. “We’ll have the freedom to make decisions and develop long-term plans for the farm.”

The large parcel, he said, will be perfect for developing diverse, holistic farming practices.

Given the heritage of farming in the Windham community and on the property specifically, “we’re excited to continue this legacy on the Weeks property,” he said. “Getting the property from Maine Farmland Trust is a dream come true.”

From left, Jeff Fisher, Abby Fisher, Ben Whalen and Melissa Law hold the Maine Land Trust’s ‘Forever Farm’ seal at the former Week’s farm in Windham. The farmers from Bumbleroot Organic Farm  recently purchased the historic Windham property and plan to move there this fall.

Ben Whalen of Buxton-based Bumbleroot Organic Farm sells produce Wednesday morning at the farmer’s market in Monument Square. Bumbleroot is moving to the historic farm in Windham, and Whalen said they’re “excited to continue (Windham’s farming) legacy on the Week’s property.”

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