FREEPORT — After 25 years of taking care of horses, maintaining high-quality soil, and running day-to-day operations, the owners of Winterwood Farm are thinking of its future.
Bob and Simone Rodgers know what they don’t want to happen to their 46-acre farm on Webster Road. They’re working with the Freeport Conservation Trust to do whatever they can to keep Winterwood from being sold to a development company.
“You can live here and you can farm here, but you can’t build here,” Bob Rodgers said.
When the farm is eventually sold, the Rodgers plan to implement restrictions so that homes or condominium 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 actual value. The trust is helping the Rodgers create a conservation easement to make up the difference.
“We’re raising money so they get most or all of the true value of the farm,” Polly Smith, a FCT board of trustees member, said.
Currently, two state and federal programs have awarded money towards the project. The Maine’s 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.
Smith said FCT hopes to raise an additional $20,000 through social media efforts asking individuals for donations, and $20,000 through donations from companies and foundations in Maine. Smith said when people donate to the easement, they are not helping to buy the farm, they are buying the development rights.
“The value of the easement for Simone and Bob is that they know forever that there won’t be development here,” Smith said.
Although the farm is not currently for sale, the Rodgers said they want to plan for the future. Bob Rodgers retired from L.L. Bean two years ago and Simone has been working full-time at the farm since they bought it, but they’re not ready to leave just yet. They, like other farms in Freeport that have conservation easements, want to be ready for when the time comes.
“You just need to plan because if you don’t, things surprise you,” Simone Rodgers said. “We don’t want to be surprised. We want to keep it open space.”
The Rodgers 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.
Smith said this idea could benefit Freeport as well as surrounding communities.
“There’s a lot of restaurants in Freeport and Portland that like to use local products,” she said. “(The farm) is in a great location for being able to sell.”
Simone Rodgers said she’d also like to see a new generation of farmers come in and learn the business.
“I think for the younger people to have the opportunity to learn about this is great,” she said.
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.
For the Rodgers, keeping the space a farm is about holding onto simpler times. The rolling green pastures hold their home, two barns, fenced-in areas for the horses and several large oak trees. For the most part, the space is wide open. Simone Rodgers said she’s sad to see areas like hers disappearing.
“Eventually there’ll be no field, there’ll be no open space, there’ll be no turning back,” Simone Rodgers said.
FCT is holding an informational meeting Nov. 1 from 3-5 p.m. for people to learn more about the farm and to make a donation if they wish. It will be held at 73 Webster Road. More information about the farm can be found at WorthWild.com.
The Rodgers are looking for as much help as possible to keep their farm alive and away from developers.
“There are endless possibilities as long as it doesn’t include a house on my farm,” Simone Rodgers said.
Simone Rodgers works seven days a week tending to the horses at Winterwood Farm. Come retirement, she hopes to find someone wanting to fill her role.
Bob and Simone Rodgers fill up buckets of water for the five horses that live in the barn behind them. They board horses and have a 16,000-square-foot indoor arena where riding lessons are held.