New England’s Longest Continuously Worked Farm is Now Preserved Forever
Conservation. To John “Whit” Davis and his family, it wasn’t just a word … it was a way of life, handed down from generation to generation. Their devotion to their land has been of great benefit to the residents of Connecticut … that commitment now left in the hands of Whit’s son, Larry.
Over 360 years ago, one of Davis’ forebearers, a man named Thomas Stanton, came to settle in Connecticut – acquiring over 400 acres in what is now the Town of Stonington. The land, situated at the mouth of the Pawcatuck River, now lays claim to the title of longest continuously worked farm in both Connecticut and New England.
Whit and Larry Davis took their conservation legacy seriously and in the late 1980’s, they decided to preserve 254 acres of their farm under the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Program.
In the spring of 2012, Whit Davis contacted Stanton Simm of the Stonington Land Trust for help in preserving the remaining 162 unprotected acres. Simm contacted the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and submitted an application for almost 47 of those acres to be placed in easement under the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). The new 2014 Farm Bill had just been released and there were some changes – FRPP was now called the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). With so many differences, NRCS and the Stonington Land Trust formed a partnership and forged ahead, and in December 2016, the easement was signed. This final piece of the Davis’ property is a beautiful 46.55 acre parcel that is now safe from future development.
“Protecting the state’s valuable working lands is critical,” said Thomas L. Morgart, Connecticut State Conservationist for NRCS. “Through the ACEP-Agricultural Land Easement Program, NRCS works with partners to preserve these valuable spaces. I’m very proud that NRCS could be a part of protecting this beautiful, and historic, piece of property.”
“The Stonington Land Trust greatly appreciates being the organization chosen by the John Whitman Davis Trustees to be the one to hold this 46.55-acre easement, along with the other three easements which comprised our Davis Farm Preservation Project,” said Simm. “If Thomas Stanton were alive today, he would still recognize the farm fields and the beautiful waterfront because, even after 363-years, there has been very little changed on the land he owned centuries ago,” he added.
“We’re glad it’s done,” said landowner Larry Davis. “There will never be a backhoe on the farm, and it will never be covered in concrete. This final easement completes and preserves the family farm and our outlook and approach. Farmers make their living on the land, but it’s our job to preserve it.”
In the end, the process was bittersweet for the family. What began under the tutelage of Whit Davis, was completed without him – he passed in May 2016. “This puts a period at the end of this chapter,” said Larry Davis. “Our family’s land will forever be used for farming or open space – that was our intention.”