Portion of Lorch Farm now under easement

CORNWALL — The Connecticut Farmland Trust announced this week the successful completion of its collaboration with Chris Hopkins to preserve the 19.8-acre Stone Wall Dairy Farm.

Hopkins purchased the farm he was already working last June, as part of a plan initiated by Cornwall residents and officials to preserve the former Lorch Farm.

"The town bought, with donations, the east parcel of Lorch Farm and Mr. Hopkins bought the west side," explained Cornwall First Selectman Gordon Ridgway. "His piece is approximately 20 acres with a house and barn. The town piece is 100 acres with a smaller barn."

The land had been in the Lorch family for 100 years, Ridgway said, and he noted that its 86-year-old owner, Arthur Lorch, died just last week (for the obituary, turn to page A11).

"It was a tribute to him," Ridgway said. "He more than anyone was responsible for preserving that farm. He had offers to sell it for development, but it was his wish to try and keep it in active agricultural use. He did so much for this town, in so many ways, but this land is his lasting legacy. And I hope it lasts for another 100 years."

The Connecticut Farmland Trust worked with Hopkins to create an agricultural conservation easement.

The agreement not only restricts development but also links together the farmstead and the pastures. The trust is compensating Hopkins for the restrictions on his land use with funds from private donors.

The conservation agreement was tailored to meet Hopkins’ needs and the characteristics of the land. It allows farming in accordance with good professional practices, construction of new agricultural buildings, construction of farm tenant housing within a specified zone, and expansion of the farm enterprise.

"Stone Wall Dairy’s high concentration of prime farmland soils and importance as a local agricultural resource for the past 150 years made the farm a high preservation priority for the trust," said Henry Talmage, the trust’s executive director.

Stone Wall Dairy is the first farm Hopkins has owned, but he has worked on other farms in the region for many years. He has 20 Jersey milking cows, and he sells raw milk to local health food stores and groceries.

Hopkins said he wants to make aged cheeses with the milk he produces. He has begun making maple syrup. And he plans to expand his on-site farm store to offer more of his own dairy products, as well as products from local farms.

A conservation easement was placed on the town-owned land; Hopkins leases the pastures.

However, the parcel of land containing the farmhouse and barns — the portion that enables these fields to remain actively farmed — was unprotected and at risk of being subdivided and developed.

Stone Wall Dairy is on Route 7 near the Kent border, in a valley across the Housatonic River from a stretch of the Appalachian Trail. It has a white clapboard farmhouse, a barn and tree-lined pastures.

The Connecticut Farmland Trust is the only private, statewide nonprofit conservation organization dedicated exclusively to protecting Connecticut’s working farmland.

Established in 2002, the trust holds 12 agricultural conservation easements that protect more than 830 acres of farmland around the state.

— Karen Bartomioli



The west parcel of the Lorch Farm, newly preserved, is at the top of the map at right.

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