HISTORY

Indian Line Farm

The farm is located in South Egremont, Massachusetts, along a strip of land once known as the “Indian Line.”  According to research performed by The Nature Conservancy, the farm was originally deeded to the Housatunnuck Nation in 1736, as part of a larger corridor that served as a passageway 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 now 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, written by Steven McFadden, describing the origins and history of CSA, appears at Rodale’s “The New Farm” web site at:

rodaleinstitute.org/the-history-of-community-supported-agriculture-part-i/

rodaleinstitute.org/the-history-of-community-supported-agriculture-part-ii/

 

In January of 1997, Robyn Van En died of an asthma attack, at the age of 49 years.  Friends, relatives and stunned members of the community wondered what would happen to the farm.  Her only child, David, inherited the farm.  Coincidentally, Elizabeth Keen and Alexander Thorp (the farmers) 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.  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, the farmers rented the farm from David Van En.

 

As the summers passed, David who was about 20 years old at the time, sought to let go of the responsibilities of owning and maintaining the farm house, barns, etc.  He recalled that his mother had previously, in 1989, sold a 38.8 acre parcel of what once was a larger Indian Line Farm to the Nature Conservancy (TNC), and ultimately approached TNC, represented by Frank Lowenstein, 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.  At the same time, the E.F. Schumacher Society, represented by Susan Witt and also located in South Egremont, had developed model legal documents for the long term lease of farmland.  The Society sought to utilize the model documents by implementing them on a working farm, and keep the farm affordable for future generations.

 

Therefore, three major entities emerged: (1) the farmers, (2) the conservation entity (TNC), and (3) the land trust (The Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, Inc.).  Each of these entities shared a desire to preserve Indian Line Farm as a working farm, yet at the same time, each coming at the effort from a different perspective.  Utilizing the concept of a long-term lease, as well as the Conservation Restriction, the three entities were able to simultaneously meet their needs.

 

The farm was purchased during the summer of 1999 for the lump sum of $155,000 by The Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, Inc.  The purchase price reflected the poor and neglected condition of the property, and was determined after the completion of several appraisals.  Following their 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.

 

An intensive fundraising effort was accomplished in the months preceding the purchase, after acquiring an option to purchase from David Van En.  The effort sought support from a wide segment of the community, and focused on a number of compelling values, most notably (a) the HISTORY and importance of the CSA movement, and specifically the work of Robyn Van En, (b) the ECOLOGY of adjacent wetlands, (c) the COMMUNITY benefits that would be secured by preserving Indian Line Farm as a working farm, and (d) the ECONOMY of Indian Line Farm as a small regional enterprise.

 

Brief description of legal documents

Two very important documents emerged from the purchase scenario described above:  the Lease Agreement and the Conservation Restriction.  The Lease Agreement (the Lease), in this case, is a contract between the CLT, as the lessor (landlord), and the farmers, as the lessees (tenant).  It is a 99-year renewable lease to utilize the farm within certain prescribed limits and agreements.  The Lease Agreement includes several attachments, including the Land Management Plan, and the Addendum to the Lease Agreement, each of which essentially add to the Lease.  The Conservation Restriction, on the other hand, is essentially a deed, with the CLT as the Grantor and TNC as the Grantee.  It allows certain stated acts and uses to take place on the property, but prohibits virtually all others.

 

Other resources including copies of our lease and articles about the partnership:

www.centerforneweconomics.org/content/indian-line-farm

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Indian Line Farm

57 Jug End Road, South Egremont, MA 01230

 

Mailing Address

Elizabeth Keen and Alexander Thorp

57 Jug End Road Great Barrington, MA 01230

Phone: 413-429-5978  | Email: ekeenfarms@gmail.com

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