By Caitlin Hopkins

During a recent annual monitoring visit to McLaughlin Farm in Wilton, I was joined by dairy farmer, Richard Corey who recently purchased and protected the farm in partnership with his wife, Michelle Mosher, and the neighboring landowners, Jan Collins and Irving Faunce. Richard has been actively using these hayfields and pasture for years to support his dairy operation. Since this easement is relatively new, it was the first time a stewardship staff person had been to this property. When stewardship staff visit farms for annual monitoring visits we come prepared with maps, a baseline document (which includes more maps and information about the property at the time the easement closed), a compass, and our smartphone- used to collect GPS points and photographs. Even with all of these tools at our disposal, talking with the farmer about any changes, future plans, or challenges on the farm always proves to be the most valuable resource.

Farmers know their land like the back of their hand, and will often let stewards in on the best views or a special place on the property. Richard took me up to the hayfield and when we turned from the tree line, we looked out over the expansive, protected “Forever Farm” and, to my surprise, southerly across to the hayfields on Spruce Mountain. Spruce Mountain is home to the 378-acre Thayben Farm and its matriarch, Nora Farrington. Nora and her late husband, Thayden, who recently passed at the beginning of this month, protected their farm in 2017 with an agricultural conservation easement held by MFT. I had been to Thayben Farm for the monitoring visit a couple of weeks prior to my visit with Richard and while chatting with Nora and Thayden had learned that the property was home to an old ski slope!

Standing on a Forever Farm and looking across the landscape, knowing that the neighboring property to the west, Wilton Blueberry Farm, and the mountainside hay fields of Thayben Farm to the south are all protected is similar to standing on a mountain summit and looking back at the ridge that you just hiked across. It is encouraging and exciting to recognize these productive and special places, and to see a network of protected farms growing across Franklin County.

Stewards make a commitment to the landowner that we will protect the conservation values of the property forever.

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