FAYETTE — The farming way of life has been good to Berndt and Elaine Graf.

On Saturday, as 50 people gathered at the Fayette Baptist Church — a place of inspiration to Berndt over the years — the couple talked about their decision to work with the Kennebec Land Trust to put their 256-acre dairy farm into a conservation easement. It’s the only working dairy farm in town, with 30 milking Jerseys, and it has a fiber business and a riding stable.

While he joked that he could have made a lot more money by selling the lots for development, Berndt Graf said he’s glad Meadow Brook Farm will continue as an agriculture gem for years to come.

“I love what I do,” he said. “Farming isn’t a job; it’s a lifestyle. We don’t feel like we own it. We’re just stewards.”

It took 21/2 years to complete the deal, which made use of $140,000 from the Land for Maine’s Future fund along with private donations. The arrangement will allow for some public access on Bamford Hill and Asa Hutchinson roads. Nearby is a conservation easement at the Sturtevant Farm Scenic Area and a larger 60-acre easement, also owned by the Sturtevant family, that includes working forests and wetlands that connect to Meadow Brook Farm.

“We’re celebrating the fact that none of this would have been possible without a public-private partnership,” said Stan Eller, president of the Kennebec Land Trust. “They have stepped up to help conserve this important piece of property.”

Over the years, the land trust has helped conserve 4,300 acres in the area, Eller said. That includes Vaughn Woods in Hallowell, the Davidson Nature Preserve in Vassalboro, and Mount Pisgah in Winthrop and Wayne. While the Fayette deal closed May 31, supporters gathered Saturday outside the church for strawberry shortcake and the Rogers Brothers Fiddle-Cello Duo.

Department of Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb said he first visited the Graf farm when delivering calves years ago.

“What we’re a part of today speaks volumes to how much people want to see agriculture remain,” he said. “Every farm is important to the future of maintaining critical mass.”

While voters will be asked in November to approve a $5 million bond to continue to support Land for Maine’s Future, Whitcomb warned that public funds will continue to dry up.

“Resources are only going to get more scarce at the public level,” he said.

When the couple bought the farm more than 30 years ago, it was in tough shape. While putting together some photos for Saturday’s celebration, Elaine Graf said she was reminded of just how much work it’s been.

“It’s been a long haul, but it’s been a good ride,” she said. “You’d never find me in a suburban neighborhood with tea in the afternoon.”

Susan Cover — 621-5643

[email protected]

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