Family Farm in Berwick Protected Forever
Thanks to the generosity of Ruby E. Brooks and her family, a beautiful 90-acre farm in Berwick will benefit the community, agriculture and wildlife forever. The farm’s new owner, Great Works Regional Land Trust, will protect its open hayfields, fine sandy loam soils, woodlands and streams in accordance with Ruby’s bequest.
Great Works has established a stewardship fund to care for the property. If you would like to contribute to this, call Great Works at 207-646-3604, mail a check to GWRLT, PO Box 151, S. Berwick, ME 03908, or donate online.
Located on Route 9, Brooks Farm’s extensive hayfields slope towards the forested acreage at the back of the property where a portion of Worster Brook runs. A neighboring farmer currently hays these fields. Another unnamed brook also flows through this expansive parcel.
Jean Demetracopoulos, a former member of Great Works Board of Directors, has been the volunteer project manager for this transaction. She knew and admired Ruby Brooks for more than ten years. And, she understood Ruby’s wishes for the farm and her reasons for leaving it to the local conservation organization.
“Simply put, there are properties which hold a higher value to a community. These open spaces may protect water quality and provide wildlife habitat or recreational opportunities. Any of these make all our lives better,” said Demetracopoulos. “In the case of Brooks Farm, it fed the Brooks family and provided an important source of local milk and eggs to the community. In doing so, the farm became part of the agricultural infrastructure of our region, and provided a sanctuary for wildlife in an increasingly suburbanized area.”
Brooks closing from left to right: Audrey Vaillancourt, Gloria Laderbush, Christine Laderbush, Chet and Brenda Mee, Michele Tobin, and Mark Lawrence, Attorney for Great Works Regional Land Trust.
At the property transfer on Thursday, July 24, 2014, Ruby’s family shared stories of growing up on the farm and helping with farm chores.
“We are extremely grateful to Ruby, her daughters Brenda Mee, Gloria Laderbush, and Audrey Vaillancourt, and other family members for entrusting Great Works as stewards of the land their mother loved,” said Tin Smith, President of the land trust’s board. “It is our honor to respect the family’s wishes, and we look forward to ensuring that Brooks Farm remains a rich agricultural and recreational resource.”
As Demetracopoulos recalls, Ruby Brooks lived and worked her farm for more than 60 years. She maintained a small dairy herd which she milked daily by hand, then marketed her milk locally. The farm started out small. With each success, Ruby grew it to its current size by adding neighboring parcels—pasture, cropland and woodland— including the Wooster Brook parcel and land with the other brook where her cows could drink. The farm provided a haven for her children and grandchildren to enjoy picking blueberries, walking shaded woods, and fishing for trout.
“Combined with other permanently protected properties in the area, an important wildlife corridor is emerging which also has the benefit of protecting local water quality. These things extend beyond the Brooks Farm to enrich all our lives” said Demetracopoulos. “The completion of this project, honoring the legacy of Ruby Brooks is an example of like-minded individuals committed to the same goals and mission of the organization accomplishing what a single person could not.”
Along with Brooks Farm, Great Works is currently cooperating with other landowners who want to protect their farms. With this unprecedented opportunity, an additional 1,200 acres of farmland with a value estimated at $5 million can be protected from development—and kept available for cultivation—in southern York County.