Photo: Back: Jason Wade, Erin Wade, Judy Bennett, Steve Bennett. Front: Julia Wade and Brendan Wade

There are lots of reasons to protect farmland: to prevent encroaching development, to help make land more affordable for new farmers, or to ensure that Maine has enough farmland for future food production. But there are often other, more personal reasons, like making sure that your farm can be passed on to your children to continue the family farm legacy.

Maine Farmland Trust recently closed an easement protecting a 347-acre family farm in Freedom. Bennett Farm, owned by Steve and Judy Bennett, is a hay and beef farm with a large sugaring operation and sustainably managed woodlot.

The family has been farming this land since 1980. During that time, they have consistently followed conservation practices, adopting forest management plans and other long-term stewardship procedures. They recognize the need to be conscientious about land use for the land to be viable for years to come.

Keeping the land viable is important not only for the future of farming in general, but for the future of their family.

Eventually, the Bennetts would like to pass the land on to their children. One of them, Erin (and her husband Jason) already owns one of the now-protected parcels. The young couple aims to keep farming and possibly even expand the property. And their children—although still only in elementary school—already talk about farming it when they grow up.

Unlike many of Maine Farmland Trust’s land protection projects, Bennett Farm is not in an area of very high development pressure. Yet rural farmland, especially properties like Bennett Farm, with rolling hills and sweeping vistas, is still in danger of being subdivided into individual house lots, severely decreasing the value of the land for farming. Protecting one piece of land in a community supports the future of farming in the greater area.

Three generations of farmers and potential farmers came to sign the final closing of the easement on Tuesday, August 7th. The smiles, congratulations, and enthusiasm for what this means for the future were a testament to the true meaning of a family farm.