In a uniquely collaborative arrangement developed by
the E. F. Schumacher Society (now the New Economics Institute) the Community Land Trust in the Southern
Berkshires, the Berkshire Highlands Program of The Nature Conservancy,
and farmers Elizabeth Keen and Alex Thorp joined together to purchase
Indian Line Farm in South Egremont. The aims of the partnership are
to preserve the first CSA farm in North America, to maintain it as a
working organic farm, to protect the adjacent sensitive wetlands, and
to provide small-scale farmers access to affordable farmland.
Working with the Schumacher Society to draft the innovative legal
documents, The Nature Conservancy acquired easements on the property
to permanently limit future development, while the Community Land Trust
acquired the title to the land and is leasing it to Elizabeth and Alex
on a 99-year basis. The farmers themselves have purchased the house,
barn, and other buildings, and will gain equity through any improvements
made to the farm during their tenure. The Community Land Trust retains
an option to purchase the buildings and improvements back, and to resell
them at their replacement cost to another farmer.
Addressing the critical connections between ecology, economy, and community,
this model project is protecting habitat, preserving agricultural property,
and keeping small-scale, organic farming viable. The participation of
the two land trusts provided a way for Berkshire consumers to successfully
finance the purchase of the land so that the farmers can continue to
farm organically and practice wise stewardship without having to force
crops to pay off land debt.
For more information on Indian Line Farm, and to access the legal documents
to create a similar project in your community, go to the Community Land
Trust page of the New Economics Institute.