By Kate Irish Collins
SACO – Three hundred acres of land with access to the Saco River have been preserved from development by a recent agreement between the Fogg family of Saco and the Maine Farmland Trust.
The easement ensures that the property, located off the Simpson Road and established in 1810 as a dairy farm, will remain as open farmland in perpetuity.
While the Foggs no longer operate a dairy on the land, it still produces hay for animal feed and will now be available for other types of farming, as well.
John Piotti, executive director of the Maine Farmland Trust, said protecting farmland with easements is critical to the long-term success of farming in Maine. The biggest barrier to the expansion of farming across the state is the high cost of land for young farmers wishing to enter the business or even existing farmers, he said.
“More and more people are beginning to see that farming in Maine is growing and poised to grow more, “ Piotti said. “But to realize agriculture’s full promise, it’s critical that we protect more farmland.”
Roland Fogg, now in his 80s, is the last member of the Fogg family to own the land, which operated continuously as a dairy until the late 1960s. He grew up helping his father and uncles milk cows and harvest crops, but went on to become an optometrist.
But Fogg’s passion for farming remained strong. Even after working at his office, he would often work the land on nights and weekends to produce a hay crop from 80 acres of fields.
The agricultural easement now on the property will prevent the farmland from being divided into house lots or otherwise developed for non-farm use, but also provides the flexibility needed for farming, according to Piotti.
“An agricultural easement is a great tool for anyone who wants to ensure his land is never developed and forever available for farming,” he said. “And the Fogg family are yet another example of a very generous and forward-looking Maine family who care deeply about the future of farming in Maine.”
The Maine Farmland Trust was created in 1999, and has helped place easements on 30,000 acres of farmland.
According to the trust’s website, farmland preservation is critical to the future of farming in Maine, which continues to be a major economic force adding $2 billion to the state’s economy every year.
The future of farming depends mostly on land being affordable and the best way to keep land affordable, according to the trust, is to permanently protect it through agricultural easements.
In its 13-year history, the Maine Farmland Trust has helped 55 new farmers take over existing farm properties; worked in partnership with more than 45 land trusts and other organizations; raised public awareness of the value of farmland and the promise of Maine agriculture; and increased its membership to 2,300.