On November 14, 2020 we held our Annual Meeting over Zoom. The annual meeting was an opportunity to come together to celebrate the good work accomplished in 2020 and the partnerships that make land conservation possible and to answer your questions about regional land conservation. In case you missed it, we’ve posted the recording here.
NCLC has 21 public preserves. This fall we had a two-part, virtual tour of these preserves. Part 1 introduces the eight NCLC preserves in the Town of Sherman. Part 2 introduces the preserves outside of the town of Sherman.
Part 1: Introducing NCLC’s Sherman Preserves
Part 2: NCLC’s Public Preserves Beyond Sherman
Click here to read our October e-newsletter for information on virtual land tours, local farms, and a live reptile show.
The New Milford Barn Quilt Trail is growing from eight to nineteen barns! NCLC’s Hunt Hill barn was one of eleven barns added to the trail this year. The New Milford Barn Quilt Trail, the only barn quilt trail in Connecticut, was created by the New Milford Forest and Farmland Preservation Committee to honor the agricultural history of New Milford, the American folk art tradition of quilt-making, and encourage the growing interest in local farms and local food.
For the Hunt Hill Farm barn (60 Upland Road in New Milford), NCLC chose a barn quilt pattern that symbolizes the forage grass grown in the surrounding pastures and hay fields. Hunt Hill Farm was a successful dairy from 1850 to 1964, and this field barn, built around 1900 was likely used to store hay for cows during the winter months. Since 2008, NCLC has permanently protected nearly 77 acres of Hunt Hill Farm from development thanks to former owners, Ruth and Skitch Henderson, and their dedication to preserving the property. NCLC owns 43 acres of Hunt Hill Farm and has a conservation easement on another 34 acres owned by the Town of New Milford. Today Hunt Hill Farm is used for pasture, hay, and Christmas trees.
Hunt Hill is the second NCLC farm to be included on the New Milford Barn Quilt Trail. In 2017, Smyrski Farm’s White Barn was one of the original eight barns on the trail. The maple leaf-inspired design honors the history of sugaring on the property that is continued by Linda and Nick Pouder of Mayapple Hill Farm who lease the land and raise lamb, vegetables, and produce maple syrup.
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture (CT DoAg), with assistance from Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy (NCLC), has permanently protected the Maple Bank Farm in Roxbury, owned by Cathleen and Howard Bronson. The conservation easement on over 50 acres of the eighth-generation farm was purchased using a combination of State and Federal funds. This ensures the farm is protected as an agricultural property forever and cannot be sold for development.
“How lucky Howie and I have been to work this wonderful land, to grow vegetables and fruit and to have pastures filled with sheep, cows, and pigs over the years,” said Cathleen. “Cultivating crops to provide to the welcoming community has been a joy. You all probably know farming includes being out in all kinds of weather, but best is the appreciation customers share with us about fresh greens for salad or the crisp bite into an apple just picked. Maple Bank Farm has a lot of history!”
Cathleen is the eighth generation of Hurlbuts to farm here since Joseph Hurlbut set foot on the land in 1730. Over the centuries, the original Kings Grant of six acres grew in size and diversity of crops, changing with the needs of the family and community. Cathleen grew up on this land with her father Lewis Hurlbut and uncle Alden Hurlbut operating the farm in partnership. The two families grew the farm to raise poultry, vegetables, and apples which were sold on delivery routes in Waterbury, Naugatuck, and Danbury. Howard and Cathleen have farmed here since 1980 and today, Maple Bank Farm produce is all marketed at the popular farm stand in Roxbury and the Bethel Farmer’s Market.
NCLC supported Cathleen and Howard in the conservation process, from completing the initial application to aiding in the State and Federal acquisition process, and commissioning surveys and soil reports. Maple Bank Farm is the fourth farm that NCLC has helped to permanently protect through its partnership with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and the 35th farm NCLC has protected since its founding in 1965. “Farmland conservation is vital to our quality of life and local economies here in Connecticut. NCLC, with the support of its members, is proud to work with our local farmers to protect these essential lands for our communities today and the generations to come,” said NCLC’s Executive Director, Catherine Rawson.
“Through our partnerships with local land trusts, such as NCLC, we are able to identify projects important to local communities,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, agriculture commissioner. “Permanently protecting properties such as Maple Bank Farm ensures that agriculture remains an integral part of the town while providing critical access to Connecticut Grown food and products.”
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Program was established in 1978 to protect the prime and important farmland soils in the state to maintain and preserve agricultural land for the future. To date the program has permanently protected more than 382 farms encompassing over 45,900 acres.
Maple Bank Farm is central to community life in Roxbury. “Through the foresight of Cathy and Howie Bronson, Roxbury is the beneficiary of a conservation easement placed on over half of Maple Bank Farm,” said Roxbury’s First Selectman Barbara Henry. “Knowing we will always have the beloved farm and farmstand in the heart of Roxbury is truly a joyous occasion.”
The Bronsons remain owners of Maple Bank Farm and continue to live in the family farmhouse. For the 2020 growing season, they have leased the farmstand and a portion of the property to Dakota Rudolf-Eastman and Matt Went. Cathy and Howie plan to remain actively involved with the farm and continue to tend the lands for foreseeable future. “The air is crisp and I am heading to the orchard to pick Cortland apples. What a joy to bring these all the way to harvest after caring for the trees and fruit since last winter,” said Howie.
Due to COVID-19, a town-wide commemoration of the conservation of Maple Bank Farm was not possible. In lieu of an in-person gathering, NCLC is organizing a virtual celebration. The public is invited to share their thanks and special memories from the farm as video messages to be shared with Cathy and Howie and the community at large. To record your message, visit https://www.tribute.co/cathy-and-howard-bronson/.
Photos: Jerry Monkman, EcoPhotography, LLC
Natural lands sustain our communities and enrich our lives. Click here to read our September e-newsletter for information on fall hikes, preserve maintenance, and an update on our hardworking interns.
After Tropical Storm Isaias we were able to check 30+ miles of hiking trails thanks to our incredible volunteers. Twenty-five volunteers who responded to a call for assistance visited all 21 NCLC trailed preserves and emailed detailed reports and pictures to staff. In many cases, volunteers made multiple visits and worked to open trails themselves, which helped our stewardship staff efficiently respond to the areas of highest need. Most of the public trails needed chainsaw work by NCLC staff, qualified volunteers, and in a few cases, paid professionals. Restoration work by staff and volunteers is still underway with a target completion date of October 31. We are grateful for our wonderful volunteers for their hard work and dedication. Are you interested in volunteering? Email our Carrie Davis, our assistant director of land conservation and volunteer coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read our June e-news.
Sebastião Salgado is a photojournalist renowned for his long-term projects documenting the humanity and dignity of dispossessed people. In this video shares his personal journey that led him to his craft and inspired his commitment to reforestation. His message about stewardship, resiliency, and the transformative power of forests applies to Connecticut’s forests as much as Brazil’s rain forests. We hope you enjoy this engaging and inspirational video.
Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust Announces Name Change and Merger with Naromi Land Trust
Naromi Land Trust and Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust enthusiastically announce their intention to merge on June 30, 2020. Weantinoge, the surviving entity of the merger, will change its name to Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy (NCLC).
Founded in 1965, Weantinoge is Northwest Connecticut’s regional land trust and the largest land trust in the state. As a guardian of natural and working lands, public recreation areas, and drinking water resources, Weantinoge permanently protects 10,500 acres in seventeen communities, including 12 public hiking preserves, 29 working farms, and 42 miles of rivers and streams. Naromi was founded in 1968 to benefit the general public and lands of Sherman, and permanently protects 1,500 acres, including 11 public hiking preserves.
“This is a momentous time for our organization and an exciting one. The new name, Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy, better reflects the work that we do. But, our mission to safeguard the natural lands and waters our communities depend on is not changing,” said Weantinoge’s Executive Director, Catherine Rawson.
Naromi and Weantinoge have worked in close partnership for several years on projects including volunteer trainings and education and, most recently, to protect 20 acres of critical agricultural land in Sherman. Both organizations are accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission and are in a strong financial and governance position.
“Combining the efforts of our two organizations enables us to more efficiently provide the services and benefits our members care most about. It has never been more important to focus on strengthening our ability to serve the Town of Sherman forever,” said Naromi’s Executive Director, Amanda Branson, who will remain with the merged organization.
“I am delighted to share this great news with the Naromi community,” noted Naromi Board President, Chris Jellen. “The Board of Directors of Naromi join me in our resolve to ensure the forever protection of the lands in our care and deliver the most benefits of conservation to our community. Joining Weantinoge in their next chapter as the Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy is the best way to do that.”
After the merger, Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy will protect over 12,000 acres including 23 public preserves with hiking trails and 30 working farms. “For 55 years, Weantinoge has led the state in the conservation of natural lands and waters,” said Hiram Williams, Board President of Weantinoge. “We look forward to working in partnership with the Sherman community to safeguard the natural lands they value and depend on most, forever. And, we are thrilled to continue our legacy of environmental conservation as Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy.”
Members of Naromi will be asked to approve the merger at a special meeting on June 13, 2020. The meeting will be held via video conference. More information about how to participate in the special meeting, who can vote, and other details is available at naromi.org/merger, or contact Amanda Branson, Executive Director of Naromi at email@example.com or call 860-354-0260.