North Stonington farm preserved for agricultural uses
North Stonington — A partnership between federal, state and nonprofit agencies worked to permanently preserve Birkbeck Farm, ensuring that the land will be protected for agricultural uses into the future.
The 69-acre farm on Ryder Road was protected in a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the nonprofit Connecticut Farmland Trust and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation program, which has protected 15 farms and about 1,400 acres of land this year in the state.
The voluntary program allows the state to purchase easements — rights for a specific use — on farm properties, effectively protecting the lands from development and ensuring that they continue to be used for agricultural purposes. A permanent conservation restriction is placed on the property, but it remains under private ownership.
Michael Birkbeck, the fourth-generation owner of the farm, sought to preserve the land following the 2012 death of his father, who requested to have the farm protected in his will, according to a news release. Birkbeck’s request to the Farmland Preservation Program recently was approved, ensuring that the property will continue to be used for agriculture for future generations.
The farm, owned by the family since the 1920s, currently serves as a hay and beef pasture and is home to a small number of cows and two horses.
Due to the farm’s proximity to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, conservation groups in the state viewed the land as being at risk for future development. Additionally, the land was targeted for conservation because of its rich soils. Approximately 62% of the property is made up of high-yielding soils that are crucial for farming, according to Thomas L. Morgart, state conservationist for the USDA-NRCS.
“This was a very important one that had a great deal of rich farmland soils that are going to be kept for generations going forward,” Avalonia Land Conservancy President Dennis Main said.
“Keeping that local food production and growing animals is all part of the importance and the public benefits of (conservation),” he said.
Avalonia, a nonprofit land conservation group in southeastern Connecticut, did not have a role in preserving Birkbeck Farm but recently was part of another conservation effort in the town. On June 26, the group held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand opening of the Sheets Family Forest preserve on Puttker Road.
Main said he hopes the recent preservation of the Birkbeck and Sheets properties will spark continued conservation efforts in the area.