Why I Work in Farmland Protection: An Origin Story

The first time that I hopped onto the back of a rusted-out pick-up truck at Rosedale Farms in Simsbury, Connecticut, my life changed forever.

I grew up in a place and time where the only things parents told their kids were to go to college, get a good job (preferably lawyer or doctor), and live a more or less traditional New England life.

But that future never felt right to me. It wasn’t until I turned 14 and started working on the farm that I began to realize that there were many different paths forward, including through long, grueling hours spent working outside to grow food for your community. That was a life my parents’ generation fought to escape, but in which I found a great deal of comfort and optimism.

Over the next decade, the farm would mean pretty much everything to me. It was my escape in the bad times and my favorite place on earth during the good ones. In high school, I’d work full time in the spring through the end of the season in the fall. In college, I’d come home and work in the summers. My brother worked there; my sister did too and most of my friends. I helped plant a vineyard (pictured below in its current form). And I made countless memories that I still think back on and smile about all the time. 

 

Today, I’m more than a decade into a career in farmland protection, but the place it all started was at Rosedale’s, a third-generation family farm on the banks of the Farmington River that will celebrate its 100th birthday this year. Over the years, the farm has always evolved with the needs of its customers. The farm started as a dairy farm in 1920, the cows are now gone, but in their place Rosedale’s now grows an array of fruits, vegetables, and cut flowers. It also has a vineyard, bakery, CSA program, and farm-to-table dinners; and it serves as one of the hottest wedding venues in the area.  

The fact that this farm is thriving today is a testament to the hard work of the Epstein family, but also by a decision to protect Rosedale’s permanently from development with a conservation easement. In 2004, farm owners Marshall and Lynn Epstein worked with Simsbury Land Trust to protect the farm in perpetuity using funding from the State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Program. This program is funded through the state’s Community Investment Act. While they could have earned far more selling the farm to a developer, it was important to Marshall and Lynn that the land remains in agriculture. 

As I get older and farther away from my formative years working at Rosedale’s, I feel so grateful to the Epsteins for making the decision to protect their land. Each time I return to visit, the town feels busier. There are new homes and stores where farms or open space used to be. But then there’s Rosedale’s. It still is, and always will be, a farm. 

And that’s why I feel so honored to work for American Farmland Trust. I get to work every day to help ensure future generations of kids have the opportunity to learn the types of lessons that can only be taught out in between rows of sweet corn.