The Cape Elizabeth Land Trust and the Maine Farmland Trust announced a conservation partnership with Maxwell Farm, to preserve 76 acres, on Sept. 4. From left to right: Ted Darling, Charlie Baldwin, Chris Franklin, and Cindy Krum. Catherine Bart photo

CAPE ELIZABETH — The Cape Elizabeth Land Trust and Maine Farmland Trust announced Sept. 4 that the organizations are partnering on a conservation project to preserve 76 acres of Maxwell Farm.

According to the land trust, Maxwell Farm, located in Cape Elizabeth, will become the largest preserved parcel that is closest to Portland.

Nate Maxwell, owner of Maxwell Farm, has been working with the two organizations to preserve the farm through a Agricultural Conservation Easement valued at $1.78 million, the land trust said.

The easement will ensure that the next owner of the property is a farmer, said Charlie Baldwin, project manager from the Maine Farmland Trust.

Speakers Ted Darling, a volunteer and former president of the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, and Executive Director Cindy Krum also announced that the nonprofit is entering the public portion of Forever Cape: A Campaign for our Community, which has raised about $5.2 million in the last three years. The $6.2 million goal is to support the trust’s land acquisition, perpetual stewardship, endowment, and operational support.

Currently, 17 percent of land in Cape Elizabeth is preserved, which is slightly above the average percentage in Maine’s coastal zone, Krum said.

Cindy Krum, executive director of the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust announced on Sept. 4 that it is entering the public phase of “Cape Forever: A Campaign for our Community,” which is raising $6.25 million to be matched in order to preserve local property. Catherine Bart photo

“The unique thing about land trusts is that we protect forever,” she said. “We really believe we need to expand that percentage and have more of that conservation.”

The Cape Elizabeth organization and Maine Farmland Trust are excited about the project to preserve Maxwell Farm, a piece of property that has been in the Maxwell family for the last seven generations, said Chris Franklin, project manager of Maine Farmland Trust. Community members in Cape Elizabeth often show their value of farmland that also possess economic and environmental benefits.

“It really does take a village — It really does take everyone coming together, for a project like this, to invest in a property like this, so it can remain,” he said.

The Cape Elizabeth Land Trust said that community contributions to the easement will be matched dollar for dollar up to $854,000 by a Maine family that is giving through the Maine Farmland Trust.

“Locally grown food and agriculture products have sustained generations of Maine families,” he said. “Unlike many other parts of the country, Maine has really been able to maintain its small family-owned farms, and that’s something that’s been woven into the fabric of our communities for the entire history of Maine. It’s great to see these projects come together.”

An easement will allow the property’s owner to see the land remain as farmland, Franklin said.

“This is a demographic change, farmers retiring, and our job, our interest, is to ensure that we can attract new farmers to properties like this, and one of the ways we can do that is working with these easements to make the land more affordable,” he said.

When discussing the easement and preservation project with the owners of Maxwell Farm, Franklin said that it was clear that there was a deep reverence for the land.

“Nate’s parents, Ken and Elsie Maxwell, were the farmers here for a long time, and in the mid-70s, when agricultural landscape was changing and small family farms were under pressure from big agricultural operations in the Midwest and California, they recognized something that we really cherish today, which is a direct to consumer model,” Franklin said. “The farm has come to you. That’s a great image because I think that’s something we really appreciate about local farms is that they are part of our community, and we access them not just to look at them but to actually benefit from their produce.”

Cape Elizabeth is a community that respects and understands the value of local farm produce, Franklin said.

Krum, who has been the director of the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust for the last four years, said that community aspect was one of the first qualities of the town that was noticeable.

“I mean, I knew the properties,” she said. “I had mountain biked them. I had walked them. I had gone to the farms to buy food, but it’s this community behind what is happening here that is so incredible. Even during a pandemic, over 100 people are volunteering, and not just once, but on a regular basis, to help us carry out our mission at the land trust. We have 65 new members since October and the majority of those have joined during a pandemic because they see how much it matters that they have a place to go and they have farms to go to to purchase their food.”

In an economically challenging time for people, and even in normal circumstances, selling a farming property would be seen as a viable option for some farmers, Franklin said, but the owners of Maxwell Farm, since the first meeting with the Maine Farmland Trust, have expressed interest in keeping the property “productive.”

“That’s a really optimistic view of the future, I think, where the values that they placed on this land were not purely economic,” he said. “Those are very, very important considerations to farmers, but when a property’s been in your family for seven generations it goes beyond that and becomes deeply personal.”

More information about the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust’s Forever Cape campaign and Maxwell Farm preservation project is available at capelandtrust.org/MaxwellFarm.

“It is just so touching and such a statement for commitment to local agriculture, to local food, to sustainability and food security,” Krum said. “It is families like the Maxwells that make the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust work possible.”

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