Deb-Tone Farm in North Berwick forever protected from development

Posted April 23, 2011, at 7:23 a.m.

NORTH BERWICK, Maine — Ken Goodwin is relieved knowing his beloved Deb-Tone Farm will forever remain farmland.

The future of Deb-Tone, a North Berwick landmark located on Route 4, was officially protected through the recent finalization of a conservation easement.

Goodwin and his wife Marion, who have lived at Deb-Tone since 1954, said they are ecstatic their land will never be redeveloped, and said they owed a lot to the hard work of the Great Works Regional Land Trust and the town.

Ken Goodwin estimated 75 percent of the money for the easement — which the nonprofit trust purchased for a reported $132,000, including appraisals and acquisition fees — was collectively raised by elected officials, through a $40,000 town meeting appropriation in 2010, and through contributions from townspeople and local businesses.

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“The town has just been fantastic,” said Goodwin, 84. “If it hadn’t been for the Town of North Berwick, the deal wouldn’t have gone through.

“It was a long process with a lot of setbacks, but we finally got it done.”

One such setback was that the project only received a fraction of the money Great Works officials anticipated from the federal government.

Great Works had anticipated $95,000 in contributions from the Federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, which would have been roughly 50 percent of the project’s original projected cost based on an appraisal of Deb-Tone.

The initial appraisal didn’t meet required federal guidelines, however, and the second appraisal netted the trust only $24,500 in federal money.

The Goodwins and Great Works agreed upon a reduced price of $100,000 for the land after the second appraisal to get the farm conserved, and trust staff and volunteers were left to raise about $105,000 to cover the cost of the land and the cost to finalize the purchase.

Voters at the 2010 town meeting set aside $40,000 from the town’s open space fund, and the rest of the money was raised through private donors, several businesses such Hussey Seating and Kennebunk Savings Bank, and contributions from the Thomas W. Haas fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the Fields Pond Foundation and the Maine Farmland Trust, among others.

The Goodwins thanked each of these groups repeatedly for the work they’ve done, as Ken Goodwin said he and his wife were almost “ready to give up” after the setbacks.

Through persistent work and support by the individuals around them, though, the couple said it became clear they couldn’t — and shouldn’t — just stop.

“We have worked too hard and improved the land so much that we couldn’t think of stopping,” said Marion Goodwin, 82.

Jack Kareckas, the president of the Great Works board of directors, said the trust did have to borrow a small amount of money from one of its internal funds — money the trust will repay through additional fundraising — to purchase the easement.

He said, though, that most of the money came from donations, and without the help of the community, Maine could have lost the chance to protect one of its few remaining farms.

“It really was a wonderful outpouring of support to make it all happen,” said Kareckas. “We’re thrilled we’re able to do this because we’re a small shop. We’re not the Nature Conservancy — we’re trying to pitch in to do what we can do to save farmland acre by acre. It’s a really big deal for us. Deb-Tone is not a large farm, but its presence is somewhat iconic to its entrance to North Berwick.”

Marion Goodwin said the plan is to now maintain the land as a working farm, which she said will be possible because one of her grandchildren has expressed interest in taking over the family business.

“Nothing’s going to be built on it,” she said. “It makes us feel good.”

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Copyright (c) 2011, Foster’s Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H.

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