17 ACRES conserved IN THE TOWN OF JACKSON
It would be an understatement to say that agriculture is deeply rooted in the history of the McLenithan Family. For close to 100 years, the land along State Route 313 in Jackson just outside Cambridge has been farmed, whether for cattle or crops, by someone with the last name of McLenithan.
About 15 years ago, in an effort to protect the land from development, the McLenithan family sold 515 acres in what is now known as Eldridge Swamp State Forest, to New York State. Patrick and Peggy McLenithan bought the remaining unprotected 17-acre parcel a few years later. According to Patrick, had his family known that ASA would become the organization it is today, it is likely they would have protected the entire 532 acres with a conservation easement instead of selling it to the State.
On March 31st, Patrick and his wife Peggy donated their development rights on those remaining 17 acres, lovingly known as Happy Kids Farm, to ASA. They also donated money to ASA's stewardship fund to cover some of ASA's expenses to steward the land to ensure that it is never planted with houses. Funding for this project also came from ASA's Forever Farmland Fund, a special fund to defray the project costs (for surveys, appraisals, etc.) that arise when someone decides to donate the development rights on their land. According to ASA Associate Director, Renee Bouplon, "While it's a small easement, these 17 acres really are the key connector to a larger block of protected land. Surrounded by state land and its close proximity to the Clark conservation easement make it an ideal project."
Patrick is the 4th generation, to farm those 17 acres, but the first McLenithan to raise goats. Before he started working for the family business, he was a chef. "I never thought I would be farming, but my happy place is on a tractor," he said. [Insert big chuckle here!] When he and Peggy purchased the farm in 2006, their family gave them a few goats. "I've always dreamed of having a goat farm. They just have so much personality," he said. From there, the herd grew quickly. Patrick and Peggy's commitment to maintaining the history and integrity of the property is evident in the recent repairs to the barn and the purchase of Uncle Barney's 1950s Farmall tractor.
Patrick and Peggy both have "off-farm" jobs in addition to raising their herd of 50 meat goats. They market through the family business, the Cambridge Valley Livestock Auction, and to "No Goat Left Behind", a program in New York City. No Goat Left Behind was launched by Heritage Foods USA to address the growing problem facing New England goat dairies — namely, what to do with male goats.
The name Happy Kids Farm really says it all. The farm is truly the source of Patrick and Peggy's happiness. "We just love it. It keeps us happy," Patrick said. "Everyone had ideas about what we should do with the land, like turning it into a campground. But I couldn't see it destroyed. It would have eaten my soul. This land is meant to be farmed." The "Kids for Sale" sign out front (an inadvertent play on words) was a gift from the neighbors and is now a popular spot for tourists to take photos.
Although the use of the land has changed over time, one thing will remain constant; it is now Forever Farmland. And that is something we can all be happy about.