Cattle graze at Walnut Crest Farm off Route 25 at the eastern gateway to Gorham. Contributed / Ben Hartwell, Sebago Lake Ranch

A sizeable portion of the historic Walnut Crest Farm in Gorham will be preserved forever under a conservation agreement with Maine Farmland Trust, a statewide nonprofit.

Dale and Betty Rines have protected from development 114 acres of their sprawling farm that lies in Gorham and partly in Westbrook.

Spreads like his, Dale Rines said, needs to be protected for the future, because “we’re not making any new farmland.” Much of his acreage is good cropland, he said.

Dale and Betty Rines Contributed / Maine Farmland Trust

Nowadays, hay is harvested at Walnut Crest Farm, which can trace its roots back to 1730, and Ben Hartwell of Sebago Lake Ranch in Gorham leases grazing land there for his beef cattle herd.

“There are multiple reasons to preserve farms like the Rines’ farm from development,” Hartwell said in an email to the American Journal, listing “the ability to produce locally grown or raised food, sequester carbon, preserve the beauty and landscape of Gorham, preserve natural resources and prevent an increase in taxes.

“There is a benefit to keeping farmland in production because developing it will cost the municipality more money in services than the additional revenue brought in,” said Hartwell, a former Gorham town councilor.


Good soils with the right balance of drainage, water-holding capacity and structure cannot be created, he said. In Gorham’s Comprehensive Plan, the soils on the Walnut Crest Farm are classified as prime farmland soils and soils of statewide importance.

“Both of these soil types have been preserved through the conservation easement the Rines sold to Maine Farmland Trust,” Hartwell said

Walnut Crest Farm officially became a Maine Farmland Trust Forever Farm on Dec. 1.

A calf at Walnut Crest Farm. Contributed / Ben Hartwell

“With this permanent protection, they know that their family farm will continue to conserve the land and benefit their community by growing local,” the Farmland Trust said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have worked together to keep this important piece of farmland in perpetuity.”

Dale Rines, a descendant of the town’s first settler John Phinney, represents the fourth generation of his family on the land that his great-grandfather, J. Henry Rines, acquired in the 1890s. Though the years, the farm added other parcels and raised dairy cattle, sheep and horses.

The farm’s beginnings trace back to 1730 when John Tyng of Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, was granted 300 acres on the Presumpscot River during the reign of the British monarch King George II. Maine was then a district of Massachusetts. The grant was awarded before settlers arrived in the wilderness that became Gorham.


The original 300 acres is divided today between Walnut Crest Farm and the neighboring Shaw Family Cherry Hill Farm.

The 300-acre grant is delineated on a map in McLellan’s “History of Gorham, Maine” as that of Col. John Tyng Smith, a grandson of The Rev. Thomas and Sarah Tyng Smith.

“It’s the same as when the map was drawn,” Rines said.

Three centuries ago, the land was beneath a stand of pine and hemlock trees, Rines said. He attributes much of the early agricultural work as being accomplished under Smith’s management.

“Someone cleared a lot of land,” Rines said.


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