Bill and Anna Spiller of Spiller Farm in Wells have recently completed a conservation easement with Great Works Regional Land Trust, preserving their farmland on Branch Road. The couple grow strawberries and raspberries, apples and vegetables on the 110 acre parcel. Photo /Courtesy GWRLT

Bill and Anna Spiller of Spiller Farm in Wells have recently completed a conservation easement with Great Works Regional Land Trust, preserving their farmland on Branch Road. The couple grow strawberries and raspberries, apples and vegetables on the 110 acre parcel. Photo /Courtesy GWRLT

WELLS — Just because it is winter — just because its cold and there is snow on the ground — doesn’t mean farmers can sit back and take life easy. On a working farm, there are always chores, there is always something to be trimmed or fed or mended.

With a lot of hard work, crops flourish at Spiller Farm in Wells - and will continue to do so long into the future. Bill and Anna Spiller, who continue to farm fruit and vegetable crops on their Branch Road property, have inked a conservation agreement banning development, on the 110 acre parcel. Photo/Courtesy GWRL

With a lot of hard work, crops flourish at Spiller Farm in Wells – and will continue to do so long into the future. Bill and Anna Spiller, who continue to farm fruit and vegetable crops on their Branch Road property, have inked a conservation agreement banning development, on the 110 acre parcel. Photo/Courtesy GWRL

Ask Bill Spiller, who together with his wife Anna has been farming 110 acres off Branch Road on Spiller Farm Road since 1967. He will tell you there are fruit trees to prune, and animals — a herd of beef cattle and a gaggle of geese — that need tending.

The couple love the farm and their land, where they grow strawberries and raspberries, apples and vegetables. Now, they and the people of Wells and beyond who appreciate farm fields and fresh farm  produce, are assured that farming can continue in perpetuity on the parcel.

The couple, along with Great Works Regional Land Trust, the Town of Wells, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, have completed a conservation agreement that will permanently preserve their 110-acre farm spanning both sides of Branch Road (Route 9A), protecting the property as working farmland now and for future generations.

Under the agreement, development rights are removed from the property and farm uses are encouraged. The land remains in private hands and on the tax rolls, yet is protected from threats of subdivision or development for non-farm purposes. The easement will be monitored and enforced by Great Works Regional Land Trust, the organization said in a statement.

“The people of Wells should be proud to know that they have supported this land with their votes and their tax dollars,” said Owen Grumbling, chairman of the town’s Conservation Commission. “It is  a wonderful thing to know that our town will have a place to grow food forever.”

GWRLT President Michael Wright pointed out that Spiller Farm supports stable farm jobs and creates economic activity benefiting the community at large. The farm delivers fresh food for the Wells-Ogunquit Community School District. And each year, for many years, the Spillers have donated thousands of pounds of produce to local food pantries for neighbors in need, Wright said.

“Bill and Anna took these steps because they love their farm and the Town of Wells,” said Wright. “They also conveyed their conservation easement at far below market value. They showed great patience in working with us for almost three years while sufficient funds were raised and the conservation process was completed.”

In November 2014, residents of Wells voted — by a 75 percent majority —  in favor of appropriating more than $150,000 from the town’s Land Bank Reserve to support the project, Grumbling said.

In addition to the Wells Land Bank, funds for the conservation agreement, called an Agricultural Conservation Easement, were provided by the Federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and by dozens of private donors to Great Works Regional Land Trust.

Wells resident Keith Fletcher, the project manager for Maine Coast Heritage Trust, managed the  project on behalf of GWRLT, helping draft documents and offering  technical assistance.

“People talk about the great quality of life in Wells. Well, folks like Bill and Anna are the ones who make it great. Their hard work, generosity, and gifts of fresh food improve the lives of those in need. And now, by having the vision and taking the steps to preserve their farm, they have given a great gift to all of us, and to future generations,” said Fletcher.

“Anna and I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to run this business and provide food for the people of Wells, and we would like others to have the same opportunity we had, to pursue life as a farmer,” said  Bill Spiller. “We’ve done a lot on improvement on the farm, getting the soil built up and it produces a lot of product. I didn’t want to see someone make a quick buck on it, with houses. I don’t want it to be like that.”

Now, because of the easement, it won’t be.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]



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