Land trusts, community come together to conserve Damariscotta farmland

Tue, 04/06/2021 - 11:00am

    Funding from three project partners in the past two weeks brings Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust close to the finish line in their campaign to permanently conserve Chapman Field and Forest, a 32-acre parcel in Damariscotta. Adjacent to Coastal Rivers’ 115-acre Salt Bay Farm property on Belvedere Road, the property includes forest, wetland, and a significant amount of farmland with excellent soils.

    It is because of this important farmland that Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) joined in the effort among several partners. MFT contributed to the campaign by purchasing an agricultural conservation easement on the land from Coastal Rivers last week.

    In addition to Coastal Rivers’ own commitment to conserve the land, this agricultural conservation easement adds another layer of certainty to a portion of the land’s future as farmland.

    Both Coastal Rivers and MFT are committed to keeping these acres in agriculture in part because of the proximity of Chapman Field and Forest to Twin Villages Foodbank Farm (TVFF). TVFF grows food for donation to area food pantries in the fields at Coastal Rivers Salt Bay Farm, immediately adjacent to the new property, and is ready to expand.

    Coastal Rivers will provide use of most of the open fields of Chapman Field and Forest to TVFF at no cost, in addition to the land already in production nearby. Coastal Rivers also provides administrative and development support to TVFF.

    Coastal Rivers will continue to own and hold the land, while MFT will monitor the conservation easement. Along with its valuable soil, Chapman Field and Forest offers important wildlife habitat, as well as protection for water quality in Oyster Creek and Great Salt Bay. In addition, this land holds exciting opportunities for Coastal Rivers’ education program.

    The property is named after the Chapman family, who owned it for many years. Chris Chapman and partner Elaine Cyr of Harpswell sold the land to Coastal Rivers at a bargain rate, because they had long wanted it to be added to Coastal Rivers’ Salt Bay Farm. “I am excited to see this land return to being farmed,” Chapman said.

    With the support from MFT and donors, Coastal Rivers has just $22,000 left to raise to complete fundraising for the project, out of a total project cost of $142,000.

    “It’s hard to overstate just how important this project is on so many levels and how grateful we are for the enthusiastic support of generous community members, Chris and Elaine, and Maine Farmland Trust to make this project happen,” said Coastal Rivers Executive Director Steven Hufnagel. “It means healthy food for the community, permanent farmland, clean water in Great Salt Bay and the Damariscotta River, wildlife habitat, and new areas to explore for the thousands of schoolchildren in our programs. Above all, I’m so pleased it will allow TVFF to expand to address the pressing need for greater food security in Lincoln County.”

    According to Hufnagel, additional community members interested in contributing toward completion of this project may direct donations to Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust, PO Box 333, Damariscotta, ME 04543 with a memo noting “Chapman Field & Forest.”

    Twin Villages Foodbank Farm’s mission is to grow and distribute healthy food for those who need it most in Lincoln County. The farm serves food pantries and several other low-income food programs in Boothbay, Damariscotta, Newcastle, Jefferson, New Harbor, Waldoboro, Whitefield, and Wiscasset. Learn more at twinvillagesfarm.org.

    Maine Farmland Trust is a member-supported statewide organization protecting farmland, supporting farmers, and advancing the future of farming. For more information, email info@mainefarmlandtrust.org or visit mainefarmlandtrust.org.

    Coastal Rivers is a non-profit, member-supported, nationally accredited land trust caring for the lands and waters of the Damariscotta-Pemaquid Region by conserving special places, protecting water quality, creating trails and public access, and deepening connections to nature. For more information, email info@coastalrivers.org or visit coastalrivers.org.