Freeport drive to protect farmland exceeds initial goal

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FREEPORT — The Freeport Conservation Trust has exceeded its first fundraising goal by over $4,000 in an effort to save Winterwood Farm from being sold to developers.

The trust raised more than $24,000 by a Dec. 15 deadline with the help of people in Freeport and surrounding communities. Crowd-funding began earlier this fall to ensure that Winterwood Farm will remain a farm forever.

The 46-acre farm on Webster Road has been owned by Bob and Simone Rodgers for 25 years. The farm is not for sale, but the aging owners hope to retire and move off the land.

When the farm is eventually sold, the Rodgers plan to implement restrictions so that homes or condominiums can’t be built on the land. As a result, the farm will have to be sold for just over a quarter of a million dollars under its highest value. FCT is helping the Rodgers create a conservation easement and hopes to raise about $265,000 to make up the difference.

Two state and federal programs have awarded money for the project. The Land for Maine’s Future program has given $105,000, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranch Land Protection program has given $90,000.

After an initial $20,000 goal was met Dec. 11, FCT Executive Director Katrina Van Dusen said an additional goal was established to have at least 100 donors. By Dec. 15, more than another $4,000 was raised and the total number of online donors hit 101. FCT used the crowd-funding website WorthWild.com.

According to Van Dusen, there were a wide range of donations; the smallest was $1 and the largest was $10,000. She said the large donation wasn’t even from a Freeport resident, but from someone who lives in Yarmouth. She said the donor, who wished not to be identified, owns land in Freeport and often drives by Winterwood Farm.

Van Dusen said FCT now hopes to raise another $20,000 by reaching out to businesses and companies across the state. She said there is no set deadline, but it hopes to raise the money within the next couple of months.

“It would be awesome to close in the first quarter of the year,” Van Dusen said. “We feel confident that we can get there.”

Maintaining the space as a farm is important not only to the Rodgers, but to the community and the state. Winterwood Farm, which was built in the 1960s, has rich soil and sits on an aquifer that produces 90 percent of Freeport’s drinking water.

The Rodgers in October said they don’t mind if future owners change the function of the farm, as long as it’s still used agriculturally. They said it could be used for growing crops or could become an organic farm. They said the large horse arena could be used as an indoor farmers market.

This could benefit restaurants in the area that are looking to use local products, thus enticing owners to donate to the easement. Polly Smith, a land trust trustee, in October said more and more restaurants in Freeport and Portland like to use locally grown ingredients.

In addition to asking local companies for donations, Van Dusen said FCT also has applied for grants.

“We have a vast majority of the money raised and I feel confident that we’ll make it,” she said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Sidebar Elements


Although it may not always be a horse farm, Winterwood Farm owners Bob and Simone Rodgers are hoping to raise enough money to make sure the land will always be used for agriculture.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.