March 7, 2018 

Agricultural Stakeholders Laud the Preservation of Stearns Farm in Mansfield

Jason Bowsza, Office of Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky

Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky today announced that the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, in partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Town of Mansfield, has permanently protected another 740 acres of Stearns Farm in Mansfield, assuring that it will forever remain in agriculture.  The closing took place January 23, 2018, as a federal government shutdown loomed.

“This is a big win for farmland preservation in the State of Connecticut,” said Commissioner Reviczky. “We recognize prime farmland for the tremendous value it brings to the quality of life in Connecticut.  This partnership between the Stearns family and local, state, and federal partners represents a shared commitment to future generations, their access to high-quality farmland, and their ability to continue providing milk and other essential agricultural products to our citizens.” 

This represents the fifth of five conservation easement that will permanently protect more than 1,000 acres of Stearns Farm which sells its products under the Mountain Dairy brand.  The recording of the easements occurred in phases, beginning in the fall of 2015.  Mountain Dairy is the largest expanse of privately-held open space in the Town of Mansfield, at 758 acres. 

“We are proud to be a part of protecting the Stearns Farm,” said Connecticut NRCS State Conservationist Thomas L. Morgart. “Conservation easements are beneficial on so many levels. They allow the landowners to keep the property they love, provide a guarantee that the land will not be developed, protect wildlife and its habitat, protect open space, contribute to the environmental quality of the surrounding area, and preserve a piece of the state’s history. I applaud the commitment the Stearns’ have made to the land that has meant so much to so many of them.”

According to Mansfield’s Mayor Paul Shapiro, “The preservation of Mountain Dairy’s agricultural land represents great news for the Town of Mansfield and the region.  Mountain Dairy is the oldest farm in town, Mansfield’s largest agricultural business, and a key part of the town’s identity.  The Town looks forward to working with Mountain Dairy to help their business thrive.”

Jennifer Kaufman, Mansfield’s Environmental Planner, reported, “Mountain Dairy is located in the town’s largest area of prime agricultural soils and active private farms.  In total, there are almost 1,100 acres of contiguous, permanently protected farmland in this section of town.”

 “The acquisition of the development rights on the final piece of the Stearns Farm is a milestone for farmland preservation in Mansfield and to the State of Connecticut,” said Jeremy Jeliffe, spokesman for Mountain Dairy. “This is the final piece of Stearns’ land to be preserved after years of efforts by the family and the town, state, and federal governments.”

“Mansfield recognizes the importance of agriculture to the community and as part of its charge, the town council greatly aided the process by funding appraisals and land surveys as well as committing personnel to facilitate relationships with state conservationists,” he added. “Through the generous supports of town and state personnel, the Stearns are proud to see the land they have worked for over two centuries preserved for future generations.”

This is the fourth farm protected by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation program within state fiscal year 2018, and the first of the calendar year.