FALMOUTH — The Falmouth Land Trust has found a tenant for 62-acre Hurricane Valley Farm on the west end of town.
The land trust announced its partnerhip with Cultivating Community at the Town Council meeting Monday.
Cultivating Community, based in Portland, operates the largest farm incubator program in the state.
Although the council took no action this week, it’s likely development plans for the farm would require zoning amendments, as well as an amendment to the memorandum of understanding the town has with the land trust regarding future uses for the farm.
With significant financial assistance from the town, the land trust was able to close on the $700,000 farm in June 2015 under the caveat that the historic property would be used for agricultural purposes going forward.
For the past several years the land trust has harvested hay from the land and leased out the small ranch house on the farm while it looked for just the right tenant. On Monday, Tommy Johnson, president of the land trust, called Cultivating Community the perfect partner.
He said the goals of the land trust, to keep the farm as open space, while maintaining its agricultural character and uses, along with providing public access and public education programming and community events aligns perfectly with what Cultivating Community is all about.
Founded in 2001, Cultivating Community “creates and sustains greater access to healthy, local foods; empowers people to play many roles in restoring the local food system; and models, teaches and advocates for ecological food production,” the organization’s website states.
In addition to providing incubator farming opportunities, Cultivating Community also manages the community garden program in the city of Portland, manages a variety of farm stands around southern Maine and has also created the Good Food Bus program.
It has also established community growing spaces at Tidewater Farm in Falmouth, the Farm on Highland Avenue in South Portland and the Boyd Street Urban Farm in Portland.
Craig Lapine, executive director at Cultivating Community, said his organization has big plans for the Hurricane Valley Farm, including both produce and livestock trial programs, a retail store, a community garden, an orchard and a variety of programming.
“We have a wide array of activities that we’re proposing that are rooted in agriculture,” Lapine told the council Monday. “We are very much committed to making the farm an educational resource and a community asset.”
In addition to what Johnson called an “iconic barn,” the property also includes a three-sided shed, the single-family home and several short walking trails, which the land trust has added in the last several years.
Lapine said Cultivating Community would like to keep the barn, which he called “a wonderful and beautiful structure,” while also adding several other facilities, including one for washing and processing produce for sale.
In materials provided to the council this week, Lapine said, “Open to all, this site will advance the town’s and land trust’s commitment to agriculture, open space, wildlife habitat, scenic lands and public recreation and will ensure that the great majority of the property can be used for agricultural purposes in perpetuity.
“We envision that the site will incorporate incubator plots for farmers; community garden space; growing sites for youth; a grazing/livestock site; a summer camp for children; orchard-based education; and local food, eating events and land stewardship opportunities.”
Lapine said once the lease agreement is formally signed with the land trust, Cultivating Community would spend three to four months creating a master plan for the Hurricane Valley Farm, which would be both “community-based and participatory.”
Although councilors had a variety of questions for Lapine and Johnson, overall they were supportive of plans for the farm.
In particular, the councilors wanted to know what could be expected in the first two to three years of the partnership.
Lapine said, “the very first things that will happen is to get three to five farmers on incubator plots, we’ll also need some infrastructure (improvements) and will create the community garden and likely some livestock trials, likely with chickens.”
In summing up the discussion Monday, Councilor Ned Kitchel said, “This is a marvelous concept and I would like to see the town move forward to facilitate the process. I have a lot of confidence in the land trust and that it will ensure (any plans for the farm) are in the best interests of the town.”
The iconic barn at the Hurricane Valley Farm in Falmouth.