Fish, waterfowl and consumers of organic produce will all benefit from an agreement to protect 83.5 acres of active coastal farmland in Bowdoinham, announced today by the Maine Farmland Trust, The Nature Conservancy and state resource agencies.
The protected land includes 4,500 feet of shoreline and habitat for waterfowl, migratory fish and bald eagles, as well as the globally rare Eaton’s bur-marigold, a small marsh plant with golden blossoms. The parcel is within the Kennebec Estuary which includes nearly a quarter of Maine’s tidal marshland and serves as critical habitat for migratory birds and fish. The Kennebec Estuary has long been a priority for The Nature Conservancy and other conservation groups.
The property is owned by Alan Kelley and his mother Erla of Bowdoinham, but much of the highly productive farmland is leased to “incubator farms” — small, start-up agricultural outfits that are making a go at furthering Maine’s agricultural heritage. These incubators include small organic farms and a local community-supported agriculture farm that supplies 80 local members with produce. Fruits and vegetables from the farms can be found at inns, restaurants and farmer’s markets from Brunswick to Portland.
“Over the years, my father must have told me hundreds of times how special the soil was, and how much it meant to him to have the land farmed,” Alan Kelley said. “The easement allowed us to maintain our family connection to the land, and at the same time, do our best to ensure that it will remain for future generations of farmers who will share my family's love for the land, and my father's appreciation for the soil.”
Mainers have farmed this land for more than 70 years, but until recently, George Christopher feared he might end up being the last farmer in town. Christopher, who has farmed the Kelley land organically since 1996 and subleases to 14 incubator farms, said that the easement will be “a blessing” to the farm families.
It’s a beautiful spot with globally important soil and access to both fresh water for irrigation and the best produce market in the state. The Kelley family has long been committed to keeping the land in agricultural use, but farmers always faced the risk that this beautiful spot could someday be sold for house lots, Christopher said.
“It’s a glorious place. How many people get to watch windsurfers in the bay while they’re weeding?” he said.
“This is not only an important piece of farmland, but an important piece of the local farm economy, and we’re pleased to be part of it,” said John Piotti, executive director of Maine Farmland Trust. “It’s another example of how preserving good farmland is critical to creating affordable opportunities for farmers.”
“The Kelley farm has nearly a mile of water frontage on Merrymeeting Bay with vast wild rice flats providing critical waterfowl feeding areas and some of the finest farming soils in Maine. This project ensures that both the wildlife and agricultural values will be protected,” said William Brune, director of land protection for the Conservancy in Maine.
For more information about The Nature Conservancy’s work in the Kennebec Estuary:
For more information about Land for Maine’s Future:
For more information about Maine Farmland Trust:
For more information about the Six River Farm:
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.