June 19, 2018

CT Farmland Trust Announces Protection of New Mercies Farm in Lyme

Turning the soil with horses at New Mercies Farm.

Connecticut Farmland Trust (CFT) has recently announced the protection of New Mercies Farm in Lyme, Conn. The development rights were donated by a couple to CFT as part of their master plan for the farm and the community around them: to preserve the land for agricultural use, to provide wholesome food for the community, and to create an opportunity for young farmers to pursue their chosen profession.

New Mercies Farm is a small farm at 4.6 acres, but the compact size does not stop the farm managers from sustaining a 100-member Community Supported Agriculture venture. The farm, close to Beaver Brook and Cedar Lake, contains 100 percent important farmland soils.

In 2012, the Hornbakes purchased the property that was slated to be developed for several homesites. They bought the land to conserve it and created a farm where none was before, New Mercies Farm, named after a hymn.

Deborah is a distinguished sculptor and Rod is a physician. They are lifelong organic gardeners who have owned a cattle farm in the past. That has not stopped them from sharing their love and respect for farming. Rod Hornbake will tell you that, “Supporting young farmers is critical. Young people need and deserve our respect and support.”

After the Hornbakes purchased the property with the idea of protecting it and then selling it to a farmer, they found a beginner farmer with whom to enter into a lease-to-buy arrangement, and then leased the land to Baylee Drown and Ryan Quinn. Drown, with her husband Ryan Quinn, already owns Upper Pond Farm one town over. Drown has brought her high energy and passion for excellent, nutritional food to the community just as the Hornbakes had hoped.

“The Hornbake’s goal to preserve a healthy farm then turn the ownership over to young farmers at an affordable cost is an inspiration,” said Elisabeth Moore, CFT’s Executive Director. The organization hopes that more land owners will think about conserving their land in 2018.

Deborah and her husband approached Connecticut Farmland Trust (CFT) in early 2017 to protect New Mercies Farm.  Although the farm is located in a suburban region ripe for housing developments, the family chose to donate for the development rights. CFT staff facilitated the preservation of the farmland. This is also the smallest farm CFT has protected and one of several vegetable farms. Deborah Hornbake is clear, “By accepting our gift of the development rights, the Connecticut Farmland Trust makes the farm affordable to the farmers.”

After closing, Deborah and Rod Hornbake will sell the protected farm to the young farm couple, Baylee Drown and Ryan Quinn, who already manage the land. Drown says, “We are excited to continue the farming tradition in our community. We hope to work within our community to increase the quality and healthfulness of food on people’s plates in their home.” Drowns’ farming style is highly invested in Lyme-Old Lyme’s community and the community responds positively.

Since its founding in 2002, CFT has protected 43 farms, saving 3,364 acres. CFT is a private 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that relies on Connecticut residents to support its operations. CFT is Connecticut’s only statewide land trust, and the only land trust in the state dedicated solely to the protection of agricultural land.

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