Conservation Easement on Historic Hastings Dairy Farm

From left to right: Mac Davis (MLT), Sonny Hastings, Bonnie Pooley (MLT) and Chris Franklin (Maine Farmland Trust)

From left to right: Mac Davis (MLT), Sonny Hastings, Bonnie Pooley (MLT) and Chris Franklin (Maine Farmland Trust)

One of Bethel’s oldest farms is now permanently conserved by Mahoosuc Land Trust (MLT). On May 24th, Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) assigned a conservation easement to MLT on 173 acres of the dairy farm owned by Robert W. “Sonny” and Betty Ann Hastings. In 2016, the Hastings worked with MFT, a statewide land trust founded to protect farmland, and MLT to donate an easement and ensure that their farm would be available for farming forever.

The Hastings Farm has been owned and farmed by the Hastings Family for more than 200 years, and includes some of the finest agricultural soils in the State, located in the rich intervale of the Androscoggin River. Until recently, the Hastings operated a dairy farm, but now lease the fields to another farmer who grows potatoes and corn.

 The Hastings decided to donate an easement on the farm because of the family’s long legacy on the land, and because of Sonny’s late sister, Ann Morton.  Ann was a leader in the community, and a Mahoosuc Land Trust board member.  After learning about the ways that conservation can support farmland, Ann suggested to Sonny that the farm where they grew up as children should be conserved.

 “Mahoosuc Land Trust and Maine Farmland Trust worked together with the Hastings to protect this farm to honor the farming tradition of this community and protect soils with the capacity to grow food for people for centuries into the future,” said MLT Board President, Robert O’Brien.The conservation easement prevents the 173.9 acres from being subdivided or developed, but allows buildings necessary to support agricultural operations in a designated farmstead area.

From the inception of the project, MFT and MLT worked collaboratively, according to MLT Executive Director, Kirk Siegel.  “MFT used its extensive experience in farmland protection to work with the Hastings to finalize the conservation easement,” said Siegel.  “We are super happy to continue the relationship with Sonny and Betty Ann, and glad to be able to commit to enforce the protections in perpetuity.” 

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 MFT Project Manager for Oxford County, Chris Franklin, shared his enthusiasm for the project saying: “Working in partnership with local land trusts enables local oversight of the property, while addressing the essential task of meeting our statewide goal of securing the future for farming on properties such as the Hastings Farm.”