WELLS — Great Works Regional Land Trust, the town of Wells, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service have announced that Bill and Anna Spiller, owners and operators of Spiller Farm in Wells, completed a conservation agreement that will permanently preserve their 110-acre farm spanning both sides of Branch Road (Route 9A), protecting the property as working farmland now and for future generations.
Under the agreement, development rights are removed from the property and farm uses are encouraged. The land remains in private hands and on the tax rolls, yet is protected from threats of subdivision or development for non-farm purposes. The easement will be monitored and enforced by Great Works Regional Land Trust.
Michael Wright, president of Great Works Regional Land Trust, praises the Spillers for their dedication to land conservation and the health of their community. “Bill and Anna took these steps because they love their farm and the town of Wells. They also conveyed their conservation easement at far below market value. They showed great patience in working with us for almost three years while sufficient funds were raised and the conservation process was completed,” he said.
Spiller Farm provides more than fresh apples, berries, corn and other crops. It supports stable farm jobs and creates economic activity to benefit the community at large. It delivers fresh, healthy food for the Wells-Ogunquit Community School District. And each year, for many years, the Spillers have donated thousands of pounds of produce to local food pantries for neighbors in need.
The town of Wells Conservation Commission was a critical partner in the success of the project. “The people of Wells should be proud to know that they have supported this land with their votes and their tax dollars,” says Owen Grumbling, chair of the Conservation Commission. “It’s a wonderful thing to know that our town will have a place to grow food forever.” In November 2014, the residents of Wells voted in favor of appropriating more than $150,000 from the town’s Land Bank Reserve, by a 75 percent majority.
Keith Fletcher, a Wells resident and Project Manager for Maine Coast Heritage Trust (a statewide land conservation organization) managed this project on behalf of the local land trust, helping draft documents and offering critical technical assistance to make the project happen. “People talk about the great quality of life in Wells. Well, folks like Bill and Anna are the ones who make it great. Their hard work, generosity, and gifts of fresh food, improve the lives of those in need. And now, by having the vision and taking the steps to preserve their farm, they have given a great gift to all of us, and to future generations,” said Fletcher.
Funds for the conservation agreement, called an Agricultural Conservation Easement, were provided by the Federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; by the town of Wells Land Bank; and by dozens of private donors to Great Works Regional Land Trust.
“It takes many people and much organization to make a project like this happen. First and foremost were Bill and Anna Spiller, who had the vision, generous spirit and commitment to do this. The folks at NRCS were great to work with. Maine Farmland Trust staff also gave freely of their time and extensive knowledge of all things farm related and helped this project get started in a great direction. And state farmland protection specialist Stephanie Gilbert provided timely and sage advice that was a huge help. But most of all I want to thank the people of the town of Wells, who voted by three to one to contribute Land Bank funds to this conservation effort, Fletcher said.
“And finally, this is yet another example of the wonderful work Great Works Regional Land Trust does in partnership with the town of Wells. I am so proud to be a member of Great Works and a resident of Wells.”