Mansfield Dairy Farm Sells Development Rights Through Farm Preservation Program

One of Connecticut's oldest surviving farms, founded in 1772, benefits from the latest use of the state government's farmland preservation program.

From dairy cows to milk containers, Mountain Dairy operates on about a thousand acres in Mansfield. Officials announced on Tuesday afternoon they will purchase development rights from the owners of Mountain Dairy and the farm, the Stearns family, for ten generations.

"This is a great opportunity for the Stearns family and we could continue farming here for another couple hundred years," Josh Stearns said.

In return for these development rights, the Stearns family gets about half a million dollars from the government to preserve 83 acres, with another 650 acres to be preserved down the line.

Steve Reviczky, Connecticut agriculture commissioner, said, "All you have to do is look across the valley there and you can see Eastern Connecticut State University, right up the road is UConn, you're sandwiched right between the two and there is always an opportunity of conversion of good farmland to non-agricultural uses. The purpose of the farmland preservation program is to take that threat away and to keep that land available forever."

He remembers rides to school on a Mountain Dairy delivery truck when he was a boy in Ashford. The Stearns family kept home delivery going as long as they could.

"Sales are up," said Josh Stearns, "but the community kinda misses the home delivery. But times have changed."

One thing that won't change now is the farmland itself - 83 acres of it, anyway.

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