Maine Farmland Trust to sell Spear property piecemeal

May 16, 2014

Rockport — Maine Farmland Trust recently met with the Rockport Planning Board, as a first step in a process designed to reconfigure a 125-acre tract of land that spans Rockport and Camden.

The Trust purchased the property from the Spear family in 2011, with the goal of revitalizing farming on it.

The Trust has since identified a farmer who will purchase 24 acres of the property. This land will be permanently protected with an agricultural easement before it is sold, ensuring that the property will always be available for farming.

This is the same approach Maine Farmland Trust followed with Rokes Farm in Camden, which abuts this land. The Trust bought Rokes Farm, protected it with an easement, and then resold to a young farm couple at its new value as protected land.

The only difference with the Trust’s approach to the Spear property is that it will be selling the Spear land in two or three parcels. According to Adam Bishop, Maine Farmland Trust’s project manager, this makes sense given the size of the property and how it is configured.

“Few farmers can afford to buy 125 acres in the Camden/Rockport area, even if protected with an easement,” explained Bishop.

Because the Spear property was part of a larger subdivision the family had previously created, any further reconfiguration by the Trust requires new subdivision approval in both Rockport and Camden. But Bishop is quick to point out that the term “subdivision," as usually envisioned, is not what’s happening here, since all parcels will be protected with permanent deed restrictions.

According to Bishop, these restrictions will allow farming and woodland management, as well as agricultural structures and a single house on each parcel. “You can’t have working farms without farmers, and they need a place to live,” explained Bishop. The restrictions will also prevent any future division of these parcels.

Bishop further explained that one of the large lots is essentially a woodlot, and that he feels there is a good chance it will sell with one of the other large lots, so it's possible that the property could be sold as only two larger parcels.

A small parcel will remain in Maine Farmland Trust ownership, or be conveyed to another land trust, because it abuts the Simonton Quarry Preserve, currently managed by Coastal Mountains Land Trust. “We want to see that parcel not only protected, but open to public access,” said Bishop.

Another part of the deal involves the Trust purchasing additional land now owned by Jason Spear, because that property includes approximately 2.5 acres of good fields that the Trust wants to include with the land it is protecting and then selling for farming.

“It’s a complicated deal,” said Bishop. “But in the end, we feel it’s worth all of the effort, because the results are so powerful.”

Maine Farmland Trust purchased the Spear property, as well as Rokes Farm beforehand, through its Buy/Protect/Sell program. According to Bishop, under this program, the Trust needs to raise funds to make-up the difference between what it pays for a property and what it sells the property for, plus cover all carrying costs during the period of ownership. The Trust generally fundraises to cover these costs.

In the case of Rokes and Spear, the Trust conducted a local fundraising campaign in partnership with Maine Coast Heritage Trust, which participated in the Rokes project. The funds raised locally, coupled with federal grant funds, are expected to cover 80 to 95 percent of the final financial need. The Trust will make up any shortfall with other funds.

“We are so appreciative of all the local people who contributed to this fundraising campaign,” expressed Bishop.

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