Conservation of farm harbors positive change for community and farmer
While its name may be changing to Stout Oak Farm, the scenic, rolling fields of Creamery Brook Farm in Brentwood will forever remain as open space, protected from subdivision and development, and conserved for agriculture, wildlife, and water quality.
In late January 2012, the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire, the Town of Brentwood and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service acquired a conservation easement from the heirs of Lawrence Lyford on the 56.5 acre farm on Middle Road (Route 111A), ensuring its agricultural fields are forever conserved. Immediately following the sale of the conservation easement, the Lyford heirs sold the farm to Kate and Jeff Donald, an established young farming couple, most recently operating from leased land in Epping.
“Conserving this productive farmland and transferring it ownership to a young farming couple is simply the best possible outcome,” explains Brian Hart, Executive Director of the Southeast Land Trust, a non-profit conservation organization based out of Exeter that orchestrated the conservation deal and its conveyance to a farmer. “By doing so, we’re meeting the community’s desire to preserve important lands, helping meet the strong interest in local food by conserving farm soils, and getting the farm into the hands of a successful farmer.”
That farmer and new owner is Kate Donald, and her husband Jeff. Kate has been an organic vegetable farmer for the past 12 years, operating Stout Oak Farm and actively involved with Seacoast Eat Local. At their new location at the historic Creamery Brook Farm, the Donalds will grow four acres of vegetables for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares, farmers' markets, and local restaurants. They also plan to open a new farm store, which will be stocked with their vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, and seedlings for home vegetable gardeners, as well as other products raised by their friends at other local farms. More information on their plans and goals can be viewed at their website, www.stoutoakfarm.com.“As new stewards of this historic farm, we are committed to taking good care of the land, and providing delicious healthy food for our community,” explains Kate. “We are thrilled to see this land conserved, and grateful for the opportunity to bring this land back into production. As we get started farming here, I have new optimism about the future, knowing that these farm soils will always be protected.”
Fifty-four acres of the property, nearly the entire farm, are highly productive farm soils that historically supported a small dairy farm, hence the name Creamery Brook Farm. Under the conservation easement, these soils will remain available for future agricultural production.
“Prime agricultural farmland in NH is lost every year, so protection from development becomes increasingly important to maintain NH’s rural integrity and access to healthy, local foods. We are grateful to the Southeast Land Trust, the Town of Brentwood, and the landowners for working with the NRCS to protect this property,” said Rick Ellsmore, NRCS State Conservationist.
The farm also includes more than 1,300 feet of shoreline on Dudley Brook, and is adjacent to other lands protected by the Land Trust and Town of Brentwood, adding to its importance for water quality and wildlife habitat.
“It is fitting that Creamery Brook Farm – which inspired the passage the Town’s Open Space Bond in 2003 – is the final property protected by the Bond,” explains Rob Wofchuck, chairman of the Town of Brentwood Conservation Commission. “We thank the Lyford family for allowing us the opportunity to conserve their family land.”
Creamery Brook Farm was long owned and managed by the Lyford family. When Lawrence Lyford passed away in July 2010, the family was faced with a choice many families face: what do to with the farm? Lawrence’s widow Dolly wanted to honor the wishes of her husband and see that the land was not developed. The family considered many options and decided to provide the community and Land Trust an opportunity to protect it and keep it as an active farm, continuing the family’s tradition of good stewardship.
Now that the land is conserved, the Southeast Land Trust is responsible for annual visits to monitor the use of the land, and if necessary, enforce the terms of easement. The Town of Brentwood and US NRCS hold secondary interests in the easement, ensuring that they can enforce it should the Land Trust fail to do so.
Funding for the protection of Creamery Brook Farm was provided by a grant of $253,000 from the US Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Town of Brentwood provided $289,843 from its Open Space Bond, first approved in 2003.