There are many reasons to protect farmland, and there is often an added economic benefit to farmland owners. By selling the development rights on a farmland property, land owners can then use those funds to re-invest in their farm business, as was the case with the recent Stone Fox Farm Creamery project.
Bruce and Kathy Chamberlain bought their farm in Monroe in 1998. Historically the property had been a small dairy and then a chicken farm. Under the Chamberlain’s ownership, the property has supported horses, hay,a working woodlot,and large vegetable gardens.
In 2010, they decided to approach local food production in a different way, and started Stone Fox Farm Creamery. They make ice cream with rich Jersey milk from the neighboring Hilltop Farm, swirled with Maine-grown fruits or maple syrup whenever possible. The creamery grew rapidly, and left the Chamberlains with little time to work the land to its full potential.
The Chamberlains first learned about Maine Farmland Trust’s farmland protection work at Maine Fare, where they were selling their ice cream to Fare attendees. They began working with MFT to explore protection options in hopes of finding farmers to cultivate their land while they focused on growing the creamery business off-site. However as they started the protection process, their creamery needs shifted, and the couple decided to keep ice cream production on-farm in their State-permitted milk processing plant, and use the capital from the easement to strengthen and grow their business.
On August 25th, MFT closed on a purchased easement protecting the Chamberlain’s 63 acres of farmland in Monroe. When the Chamberlains are ready to transition their land at some point in the future, they hope to sell their farm to young farmers who will cultivate the land and having an agricultural easement in place should help to make that transition more affordable for the oncoming farmers. And for now, the Chamberlains will continue to build the local food economy with their flourishing ice cream business.
Keeping the land available for farming and supporting a Maine business making delicious ice cream with local milk and ingredients? That’s quite a cherry on top!