Rokes Farm in Camden under contract
Camden — Marina Sideris said she and husband Cooper Funk are "excited about the potential" for Rokes Farm in Camden. Maine Farmland Trust announced Sept. 24 that the historic farm is under contract to the couple who presently reside in Grass Valley, Calif.
According to a press release from Maine Farmland Trust, the property will be sold subject to a conservation easement that will ensure that Rokes is forever kept available for farming. The easement is to be "held and monitored" by Maine Coast Heritage Trust and is the subject of an ongoing fundraising campaign.
Maine Farmland Trust offered Rokes Farm for sale in the spring. Sideris is a Camden native and her mother, Meg, resides within sight of Rokes Farm. She said she and Funk heard their application for the property had been accepted on Sept. 14. According to the press release from Maine Farmland Trust, Sideris and Funk were selected after the organization received several offers for the property.
According to Maine Farmland Trust Executive Director John Piotti, Maine Farmland Trust looks hard at a buyer’s ability to run a viable farm business and uses that and the applicant’s vision for the property, not price, to guide its decision.
“We set a price based on what we believe is the fair value of the land as farmland, assuming that an easement prohibits development on it, and we don’t accept higher offers,” explained Piotti in the press release distributed by Maine Farmland Trust on Sept. 24 announcing the pending sale.
Maine Farmland Trust has also purchased an abutting property to Rokes Farm, formerly owned by the Spear family. Maine Farmland Trust has not yet begun to market that parcel, and is continuing to actively work to raise the requisite funds to place conservation easements on both Rokes and the Spears property, jointly comprising 55 acres of Camden farmland, according to the release.
“Though we are thrilled that Rokes will be sold to new farmers, that step alone does not ensure that the land will be permanently protected, permanent protection requires the kind of easements that we are in the process of raising funds for,” explained Piotti in the press release.
Sideris is reticent to reveal the couple's vision for Rokes at such an early stage. She explained she and Funk are still "early in the process of investigating the farm," and "certainly have a lot of ideas." She said Funk presently runs Dinner Bell Farm in Chicago Park, Calif., which she described as "a small-scale, organic, pretty diverse" farm offering a range of products including produce, chicken and cut flowers.
"We'll bring the same general ethos to this farm," Sideris explained.
She said Funk, an experienced farmer, will do most of the day-to-day farming but that she will be present on the farm and contribute to the operation.
"We'll definitely be utilizing organic growing practices," Sideris said.
Funk, a California native, immediately noticed Rokes Farm on his inaugural visit to Maine, Sideris said.
"It was one of the first things he noticed when he first came to visit," Sideris said. "We were very excited to see it was going to be preserved as farmland."
Sideris said the application process was "pretty involved" and said she and Funk worked to familiarize themselves as much as possible with the property, making multiple trips to Maine and meeting with members of the Rokes family and town officials to ensure zoning was conducive to their vision. Sideris said she does not foresee any reason the couple's future plans for Rokes Farm would not work within existing zoning.
Sideris said the couple does not have a definitive time frame, but that they plan to move to Maine during the upcoming winter.
Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.