Indian Line Farm is located in South Egremont, Massachusetts, along a strip of land once known as the "Indian Line." The farm was originally deeded to the Housatunnuck Nation in 1736 as part of a larger corridor between the Housatonic and Hudson Rivers. Later the tribe sold the land for 460 British pounds. For much of the 1900s the farm was an active 125-acre dairy farm.
Indian Line Farm is known as one of the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the United States, and was established in 1985 by Robyn Van En, Jan Vander Tuin, and a coalition of local citizens. An excellent article describing the origins and history of CSA appears at Rodale's "The New Farm" web site (click here to link directly to part one and part two).
In January of 1997, Robyn Van En died of an asthma attack at the age of 49. Friends, relatives and stunned members of the community wondered what would happen to the farm. Her only child, David, inherited the farm. Not too far away Elizabeth Keen and Alexander Thorp had completed training as apprentices on a nearby CSA farm and were considering what their next steps would be. Elizabeth had spent time working with Robyn just prior to her death organizing an upcoming CSA conference. Members of the community and relatives recognized the possibility that these two young farmers might continue using the farm. And so, for the following two summers, Elizabeth and Al rented the farm from David.
Shortly thereafter, David who was about 20 years-old, realized the incredible costs and responsibilities of owning and maintaining the farm house, barns, etc. He recalled that his mother had previously sold a 38.8-acre parcel of what once was a larger Indian Line Farm to the Nature Conservancy (TNC), and ultimately approached TNC about whether they would be interested in purchasing an additional portion of the farm. The Nature Conservancy was in the midst of a major conservation campaign to protect the nearby Karner Brook watershed and was indeed very interested. At the same time, the E.F. Schumacher Society had developed model legal documents for the long-term lease of farmland. The Society was excited to utilize these model documents by implementing them on a working farm.
A partnership of sorts was formed between the farmers, The Nature Conservancy and The Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires. Each shared a desire to preserve Indian Line Farm as a working organic farm. Utilizing the concept of a long-term lease, as well as the Conservation Restriction, the three were able to simultaneously meet their needs.
The Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires purchased the farm in 1999 for $155,000. The purchase price reflected the poor and neglected condition of the property and was determined after the completion of several appraisals. Following the purchase, TNC purchased a Conservation Restriction on the majority of the property for $50,000. Finally, the CLT sold the buildings to the farmers for $55,000, and simultaneously gave the farmers a long-term 99-year lease to use the farm.
Two important documents emerged from the purchase scenario described above: the Lease Agreement and the Conservation Restriction. The Lease Agreement is a contract between the CLT and the farmers. It is a 99-year renewable lease to farm organically and outlines permitted practices and uses of the farm. The Lease Agreement includes several attachments including the Land Management Plan and the Addendum to the Lease Agreement. The Conservation Restriction, on the other hand, is essentially a deed. It allows certain activities but prohibits virtually all others.
Further details on the purchase of Indian Line Farm and the model legal documents can be obtained at the New Economics Institute, formerly The E.F. Schumacher Society.