FAYETTE — Berndt and Elaine Graf can continue to milk their Jerseys and run their farm for as long as they like, and when they choose to retire, the Kennebec Land Trust and others will help find a farmer to take over.

The knowledge that their 256-acre Meadow Brook Farm on Bamford Hill Road will remain an agricultural pursuit is comforting to the couple, who have farmed the land for nearly 30 years.

They just completed the deal, which allows a conservation easement and opens some areas to the public.

“What I did was basically sell my right to develop it,” said Berndt Graf, a Fayette selectman. “I cannot develop the land commercially.”

However, the Grafs continue to own the land and can use it for agricultural purposes, and the loss of development rights means they will pay less in property taxes.

The agricultural conservation easement is held by the Kennebec Land Trust and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources. The Grafs own the only working dairy farm in Fayette as well as wetlands along Meadow Brook, and Elaine Graf offers riding lessons on the farm’s thoroughbreds and also raises sheep and operates a fiber business.

In addition to preserving the land for agriculture, the easement provides public access and hiking and snowmobile trails.

The easement was bought with $140,000 from the Land for Maine’s Future Program and with aid from land trust members and others.

Berndt Graf said he was happy for several reasons.

“My wife and I have put a lot into this, and we would hate to see this developed,” he said. “We like the rural nature of Fayette and were looking for a way to preserve it and a way to reduce our taxes a bit. It also gave us a cash input we could use on the farm.”

Graf said none of their four children are interested in farming, so now the couple is assured someone will continue farming the land.

He said he would encourage other large land owners and farmers to take similar steps to preserve their forests and farmland. “It’s a good thing to do,” he said.

Howard Lake, a volunteer attorney representing the land trust, helped prepare the legal documents.

“There were quite a few parties involved, including the Land for Maine’s Future foundation, the Department of Agriculture and the land trust and the landowners,” he said. “I think we volunteers put a lot of effort into it, but it’s really the Grafs who had the patience and the willingness to step up and do this.”

Lake said he’s looking forward to visiting the farm again during the Kennebec Land Trust’s conservation celebration July 7.

“I’ve seen it in one season and I’m anxious to see it in the summer,” Lake said.

The celebration will also mark a second conservation easement of 60 acres from the Sturtevant family, whose farm and tourism business, Home-Nest Farm Bed & Breakfast, is next door to Meadow Brook Farm. The Sturtevant and Graf easements will have public access points on the Bamford Hill and Asa Hutchinson roads

The celebration is set for 9 to 11 a.m. at Fayette Baptist Church and offers strawberries, music by the Rogers Brothers fiddle-cello duo, visits to see the Meadow Brook farm animals and optional hikes on the farm trail as well as to the land trust’s Sturtevant easement scenic lookout. The event is free and open to the public.

Mark Robinson, Fayette town manager, said town officials are pleased to have secured the Graf property.

“This has long been a goal of the town of Fayette to protect such land,” Robinson said. “Thanks to the benevolence of the property owners, and the Kennebec Land Trust and the Land for Maine’s Future, we’ve been able to accomplish the goal.”

In a note to fellow land trust members and friends, the group’s president, Stan Eller, wrote that the land trust has now conserved more than 4,240 acres of shoreland, forest, wildlife habitat and farmland in Kennebec County.

 

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]


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