Wanted: Green thumb to give Falmouth farm a hand

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FALMOUTH — The Falmouth Land Trust hopes to find someone to farm the property known as Hurricane Valley Farm on Route 100.

Last year, FLT closed on the 62-acre parcel, which abuts the Cumberland border. Originally a horse farm known as Capall Creek Farm, the land was previously approved by the town for a 17-lot subdivision. The town and land trust vacated the subdivision in February, according to Ethan Croce, the town’s senior planner. FLT and the former owner, Kevin Smith, then signed an agreement to permanently protect farm.

Ted Asherman, an FLT trustee, said the overall goal for the property is to continue agricultural operations. FLT issued a request for proposals from prospective farmers in early June.

“The requirements are pretty wide open; we’re really not saying what type of agriculture somebody could or could not do. We’re leaving it wide open to see what people come up with,” Asherman said.

Proposals will be accepted until Monday, Aug. 1, at 5 p.m. FLT Vice President Scott Sanford the goal is to select a candidate sometime in October.

“Hopefully they will be ready to get off and going for 2017,” Sanford said, but added the time line is only “a rough plan” and could change, depending on the interest level. “If we feel we need to take more time to get more candidates we will do that,” he added

Sanford said the earliest a candidate could actually be working the land would be mid-to-late fall.

The RFP language says FLT is looking for a candidate who will operate a “sustainable agricultural operation of their own design,” which the RFP defines as “food, fiber, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare.” The RFP says FLT is prepared to offer an initial three-to-five-year lease, with the potential to develop a longer arrangement.

Asherman said Cumberland County can be a difficult region for agricultural operations – especially for young farmers – because of the price of real estate. He said trustees hope the proximity to Portland and its restaurants and markets would be something of an appeal.

“But it also could be something that somebody has animals instead, or in addition to,” Asherman said. “We’re really quite wide open.”

Asherman said the parcel would remain open for use by the public, since the land trust has a trail system in place.

The parcel was purchased for $700,000. The town contributed $400,000 from the Parks Land Capital Fund to help FLT acquire the property, and FLT raised the rest through a capital campaign.

On the property is a recently reconfigured 16-stall barn with a large hayloft, a small ranch house which can be part of the lease, and a three-sided shed. The parcel contains wetlands, open fields and farmland.

Sanford said the small ranch house is being rented, but could be made available if a tenant farmer wants to live on the property.

There are two abutting properties which are also for sale. Asherman said one parcel is the original farmhouse with a horse barn on the property on Shaw Road, which is being sold by the original owner, Kevin Smith.

“It looks very much the same because it all has that white plastic fencing,” Asherman said, but the land owned by FLT is independent from the neighboring property.

The other parcel is on Schuster Road, which Sanford said was a equine veterinary clinic.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

The Falmouth Land Trust has issued a request for proposals to find a farmer for the Hurricane Valley Farm property on Route 100. FLT purchased the 62-acre property last year, with the intent to preserve agricultural land and open space. (Colin Ellis / The Forecaster)

Proposals in response to the Falmouth Land Trust’s requests will be accepted until 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1. (Colin Ellis / The Forecaster)

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.