77. Tibbetts Farm, Berwick (08/2007) Easement
The purchase of two and donation of one conservation easement(s) totaling 269-acres on a working dairy farm on Blackberry Hill Road, from the Reba Tibbetts family. The purchases were made with funds from Land for Maine’s Future and USDA. Funding came from Land for Maine’s Future. The Land Trust (Jean Demetracopoulos, Project Manager) partnered with the Maine Department of Agriculture and Maine Farmland Trust to complete the project. This farm abuts property held by the New England Forestry Foundation.
There is a bond which develops between farmers and their land. It is a relationship, not unlike a marriage, with peaks and valleys around years of bounty and years of difficulties. In farming, periods of trial are followed by the hope of the next growing season or the next calving. Like a marriage, it is built upon a trust of the underlying resource, the partner - in this case, the dependability of the soils to yield a productive crop given the proper stewardship. Each spring, hope springs anew. Farmers smell the change in the damp soil as it thaws. They watch the wind work the growing hay. They hear the change of the corn leaves as they ripen and dry. They rub a new calf to dry it in the early morning light… like spring, bringing new life, new hope. This marriage between farmer and land, in special cases, is generational. It transcends physical age. Even for those of us no longer connected to the land, there is respect for this special marriage…
On August 10th, 2007, GWRLT completed a project in Berwick protecting all 269 acres of the Tibbetts Farm on Blackberry Hill Road. Reba Tibbetts (pictured above with Todd Hoffman and Jean Demetracopoulos), her sons, her grandson, even her great-grandson, have this special relationship with the land and the cows they milk. Their love of the land brought them through the long and sometimes frustrating process of permanently protecting the farm through the sale of its development rights. Their ultimate concern that their fields never grow rooftops has been addressed through the conservation easement which will remain with the land forever.
The Tibbetts will continue to own the land, farm the fields and manage the woodlots. For Reba, this event is a legacy. This land will always breathe with the seasons. It will not be scarred with asphalt or suburbanized lawns.
For the rest of us, this project means we will be able to drive along one of the prettiest roads in southern York County and see cows out to pasture and hay and corn growing on rolling fields. The Tibbetts’ side of Cranberry Meadow Swamp and the water it holds will continue to function as a natural environment, recharging groundwater, filtering nutrients and providing quality wildlife habitat.
The survey showed more than 2000 feet of boundary with the New England Forestry Foundation, creating a wildlife corridor extending from Route 9 to Blackberry Hill Road. The proximity of conservation lands to the south of the Tibbetts’ home farm parcel on Brackett Lane extends this corridor almost to the South Berwick town line – almost 500 acres conserved of the more than 2000 acres of wildlife habitat within 2 miles of Berwick’s burgeoning downtown.
These lands support the tax base without requiring services of roads and schools. The 51 house lots which could have been developed on the Tibbetts Farm, conforming to current zoning will not happen, helping to stabilize the tax burden on the town.
From the actions of a devoted farmer, the commitment of her family, and the support of public and private partnerships,
we all benefit.
Accomplishing this task was no small feat. It took three years to bring together the information (build out scenarios, appraisals and surveys) and the funding from the Land for Maine’s Future Program (LMF) and the federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program. Stephanie Gilbert from the Maine Department of Agriculture provided essential technical support and coordination. Attorney Hope Hilton and Collin Therrien from the LMF were keepers of the reams of paper work required for this transaction. Trust attorney Susan Thibeau worked with the Tibbetts’ attorney Bruce Whitney to review closing documents and easements. GWRLT board members and staff committed to raising the funds to accomplish the deal (your membership dollars and donations at work). Bill Yarmatino and Geoff Coombs from Natural Resouces Conservation Service provided support at the federal level for this project. Maine Farmland Trust served as our fiscal agent for the federal funding component. Jean Demetracopoulos coordinated this project over the three years. We are grateful for her devotion to farmland protection in our communities. Our sincere thanks are extended to all the above.