To preserve Indian Line Farm, the first Community Supported Agriculture farm in North America, the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires and the Schumacher Center for a New Economics collaborated with the Berkshire Highlands Program of The Nature Conservancy and farmers Elizabeth Keen and Alexander Thorp. The goal was to maintain a working organic farm, protect the adjacent sensitive wetlands, and provide small-scale farmers with affordable access to land.
Working with the Schumacher Center to draft the innovative legal documents, The Nature Conservancy acquired conservation 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 Alexander on a 98-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, including improvements to the soil. 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 for whole farm preservation is protecting habitat, preserving agriculture and keeping small-scale farming viable. The participation of the two land trusts provided a way for Berkshire residents to finance the purchase of the land.
History, articles, and talks
A New Lease on Farmland: Assuring a Future for Farming in the Northeast by Susan Witt Online | PDF
A guide to conservation land trusts ensuring that farmland held in their trust is used productively over the long-term.
From Activism to Agriculture by Judith Monachina for the Berkshire Eagle PDF
From Farm to Front Door by Mark Hawthorne, American Chronicle PDF
Eating for Your Community by Robyn Van En Online
A report from the founder of Indian Line Farm on the origins of the Community Supported Agriculture concept and the history of the first CSA farm.
Farmers Alexander Thorp and Elizabeth Keen describe the Indian Line Farm lease agreements at the 2007 Building Sustainable Local Economies training seminar at the Schumacher Center’s Library. Online
NPR’s StoryCorps Interview with Frank Lowenstein, Susan Witt, and Al Thorpe about the history of Indian Line Farm on Saturday, August 8th 2015 at the Great Barrington campus of Berkshire Community College. In the 1990s Lowenstein suggested forming the partnership that would end up saving Indian Line Farm. Online
Indian Line Farm Legal Documents
Lease Agreement Online | PDF
Based on leases used by the Jewish National Fund and modified over the years within Massachusetts Law. Consult with your local lawyer for application to your local laws. The object is to provide leaseholders with ownership of all buildings and other improvements on the site while the community land trust retains ownership of the land itself. The resale restrictions call for the leaseholder to keep the current replacement value of improvements on the site, adjusted for deterioration, without also capturing the speculative land value.
Addendum to the Lease Online | PDF
This addendum is for the benefit of a mortgager of a building on leased land. It allows a mortgager to be free from resale restrictions in the event of a foreclosure. There is also ample provision for the community land trust to correct any default before foreclosure.
Land Use Plan PDF
Details the tillable land, buffer areas, and other uses of the land. It reflects the combined ecological, community, farming, and private homestead interests of the partnership.
Land Management Plan Online | PDF
Developed in cooperation with the farmers, the management plan sets the requirements for crop and livestock production to ensure that the land stays in use and is farmed in accordance with organic standards.
Robyn Van En’s personal library
The personal library of Robyn Van En is cataloged and shelved together as a collection (marked RVE) at the Schumacher Center Library.