By ecoRI News staff
WATERTOWN, Conn. — The Kuslis family runs a 73-acre farm where it mainly raises beef cattle and grows hay. The farm, which has been in the family since 1934, is surrounded by fields, forest and, increasingly, residential neighborhoods.
The operation, owned by Lillian Kuslis, was previously managed by her son, William. Following his death in 2013, daughter-in-law Debbie and grandson Andrew took over the operation.
Kuslis realized that conveying the development rights was the next step. “I wanted to keep the farm in the family,” she said. “So when William passed away, I had to do something so his wife and son could continue working it.”
The family contacted the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DOAg) and applied to its Farmland Preservation Program. DOAg then applied for funding assistance through the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
Through this partnership, the state and federal agencies recently financed the appraised fair market value and closed on the easement. This means the farm remains in the Kuslis family, where it may continue running the business, knowing the land remains protected in perpetuity.
“This is the third such easement closed in two weeks,” said Connecticut NRCS State Conservationist Thomas Morgart. “Hopefully, other agricultural land owners in the state will see the value of farmland preservation and begin thinking about doing the same thing.”
Preserving this tract of land is of substantial benefit to Connecticut and its residents because 45 of the 73 acres has been found to be either prime farmland soils or statewide important soils. The significance of the designation of prime farmland is that it is of major importance in meeting the nation's short- and long-range needs for food and fiber. A designation of statewide importance means that particular land has the ability to produce high yields of crops when managed according to acceptable farming methods.
Kuslis said over the years she and her late husband, Edward, received several offers from developers, but turned them down because they “didn’t want to see houses all over it.”