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Story of Impact: Scarborough Land Trust and Broadturn Farm

by Mary Erin Casale
This case study is part of MANP’s Stories of Impact series highlighting the many ways Maine’s nonprofits are essential to a strong and healthy Maine.  

The Impact

scarborough-land-trust-maine

Scarborough Land Trust (SLT) conserves land for people, for wildlife—forever. In 2004, SLT purchased and permanently conserved the 434-acre Meserve Farm property that is now known as Broadturn Farm.  Located on Broadturn Road, the farm is a gateway property to western Scarborough.  SLT leases part of the property to local organic farmers John Bliss and Stacy Brenner, who have brought this landmark Scarborough farm back to life.  Visionary land conservation also provided affordable farmland in southern Maine, where the high cost of land is out of reach for most farmers.  Bliss and Brenner have developed a diversified farm that has created a new community resource that benefits people, ecology and the local economy.

  • 25 people employed by the farm.
  • Conservation and farming practices that are complementary, supporting healthy soils, clean water and diverse wildlife.
  • 150 member families served through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program of fresh, local, certified organic vegetables, and 60 members of a field-grown flower CSA.
  • Some 10 farm weddings, and over 100 other flower customers off the farm.
  • Summer farm camp for kids, preschool and other school programs that reach more than 200 children.
  • An example of how land trusts can foster innovation, community engagement and entrepreneurship.

The Story Behind the Impact

Over the last 10 years Broadturn Farm has gone from a dormant piece of farmland at the end of a traditional farming lineage, to a revitalized community-centered organic farm with a unique approach to ownership and tenancy– a direct result of tlong-barn-sign-going-up-9-13he conservation by the Scarborough Land Trust. To date, SLT has protected more than 1,400 acres in Scarborough for public benefit.  In addition to its stunning coastline, beautiful beaches and the largest salt marsh in Maine, Scarborough also has vast acres of prime farmland and mature forests.  At 50 square miles, Scarborough is one of the largest towns in southern Maine, and has been one of the fastest-growing towns in the state. SLT’s conservation of the Broadturn Farm property has expanded SLT’s community impact with a long-term farm lease that has allowed local farmer to build a thriving farm business.  Broadturn Farm provides fresh, local food and flowers, educational programs, and local jobs.  It has attracted a wide variety of vendors and customers whose combined activity brings economic benefit to the community.

In 2004, SLT conserved the Broadturn Farm property in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, the Town of Scarborough, the Land for Maine’s Future program, private donors, and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which holds an agricultural conservation easement on the property. The 434-acre property included not only agricultural soils of statewide significance, but a landmark farm that dated back to the 1800s. In 2006, SLT leased 275 acres and the farm buildings to John Bliss and Stacy Brenner, organic farmers who created and own the farm business, Broadturn Farm, Inc.

btf-crop-rows-from-btf-website-adjIn the early days, Bliss and Brenner focused on running an organic farm based on their Maine Organic Farmers and Gardiners Association training. They started with only a vegetable CSA and farm camp. In the past 10 years, the farm has grown significantly. In addition to the vegetable CSA and summer camp, they now offer a flower CSA, afterschool and preschool programs, a wholesale vegetable business, a busy flower design business, and they host 10-12 weddings at the farm each summer. This diversified model has a direct financial benefit for the people who are employed to run various farm operations.

SLT is pleased to be supportive of conservation initiatives that also benefit the local economy. “Local farms and local food connect more people to the land,” said Kathy Mills, Executive Director of SLT. Not only does the property allow for public access with trails, hunting and other public programs like birding and nature walks, but the farm has also created a community around local agriculture, with both financial and social impacts. Including the number of CSA shareholders, their sub-lease of some acreage to Snell Family Farm, wedding clients, floral clients, farm stand and education program customers, SLT estimates that over 500 people are customers at the farm. Beyond that, when looking CSA shareholder families, customers of farm lessees, guests of weddings and other events, farm stand families and education program attendees, SLT estimates that thousands of people annually benefit directly from their conservation of this land.

“In recent yeflower-harvesting-hoophouse-btfars, the cost of land in southern Maine has become prohibitive for most farmers,” said Mills. Bliss and Brenner began farming on leased land at Broadturn Farm in 2006, and in 2012 signed a 30-year lease with SLT, one of the few land trusts in Maine to do so.  Bliss and Brenner now cultivate 13 acres – 2 in flowers and the rest in produce and cover crops.  They sublease another 15 acres to Snell Family Farm.  There are nearly 100 open acres and the rest is wooded. The conservation and farming practices are complementary and support healthy soils, clean water and diverse wildlife.

Every other month a committee from the Scarborough Land Trust meets with the farmers, but what the business looks like and how it will grow is entirely up to Bliss and Brenner.  SLT owns both the land and farm buildings, and has raised considerable funds over the years to renovate the original farmhouse and barns, which came with decades of deferred maintenance.  SLT also maintains a hiking trail on the property.  SLT is committed to caring for this large, gateway property to western Scarborough, and sharing their experiences with other land trusts who may be interested.  Crystal Springs Farm in Brunswick, owned by Brunswick Topsham Land Trust, is another such example of this partnership between conservation and agriculture that provides many benefits to the community – open space, affordable farmland, local food, local jobs, educational programs and a new hub that helps build community.

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