We are pleased to announce the closing of the first ALE (Agricultural Land Easement) project in the state of Connecticut. Scooter Hill Farm, owned by the Drum family of Lebanon, is now permanently protected. This is the first project in the state to utilize the United States Department of Agriculture – National Resources Conservation Service’s new program.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s full release can be read below:
Nestled in New London County, Connecticut, lies the peaceful town of Lebanon. First settled in the 1690s, it is a large, rural town of 55.1 square miles characterized by extensive agricultural lands and rolling wooded hills. Whether you live there, or you’re a tourist just passing through, the landscape can be breathtaking.
Just under 34 acres of Lebanon’s scenic farmland is owned by John and Dawn Drum – purchased by their ancestors in 1946. On their land, named Scooter Hill Farm, the Drums tap approximately 400 sugar and red maple trees, grow hay, and raise beef cows.
Although the property was inherited, the current owners are as connected to it as their family before them. Their desire to ensure the land is cared for into the future led the Drum’s to begin checking into their options.
Their search led them to the Town of Lebanon and the Connecticut Farmland Trust (CFT). “Connecticut Farmland Trust is honored that the Drums chose us, and our partners, to protect their farm. Everyone was focused on the same thing – ensuring the farm is never turned into a housing subdivision – so the family and future owners can now focus on what they love, farming,” said Elisabeth Moore, CFT Executive Director. Every year, Connecticut loses 20% more farmland than it protects. Because farms are critically important to all communities and are becoming essential to our food system, CFT is dedicated to protecting agricultural land.
The Town of Lebanon and CFT, in turn, contacted the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to discuss utilizing the agency’s new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and its Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) portion, which provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands.
A partnership was formed between NRCS, CFT, and the Town of Lebanon to secure a conservation easement.
“ACEP was created using the best components of three previous NRCS programs” said Thomas L. Morgart, NRCS State Conservationist for Connecticut. “It is designed to help landowners protect working agricultural lands, and encourages farmers, forest landowners, and Tribes to keep their land in agricultural use. This was Connecticut’s first 2014 Farm Bill ACEP-ALE conservation easement to go entirely through the process; it was a pleasure working with the Connecticut Farmland Trust and the Town of Lebanon.”
As for the landowners, they are happy with the outcome. “We are grateful to Connecticut Farmland Trust, NRCS, and the Town of Lebanon for helping us realize our dream – Scooter Hill Farm is now preserved as farmland forever,” said Dawn Drum.