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You could say Penny Jordan saved the farm. A veteran of the insurance industry with a business degree, she came back to work at her Maine family farm at age 48. Since then, she’s revitalized her old farm stand business with a bus that delivers produce to senior centers. She’s opened a tiny restaurant on wheels, The Well, where a fine-dining chef turns out an ever-changing menu to be eaten at picnic tables by the parking lot—albeit one with a stunning view of Spurwink River. Jordan, a spunky, silvery blonde who favors fleece and Carhartts, has so much energy she almost bounces as she walks. Her creativity may spark new business models for other small farms, and why not? This is a woman who seems like she could do anything.
But Jordan doesn’t take the credit. The secret to her booming business, she says, is instead a complex and seemingly rather dull legal contract called an agricultural easement. The arrangement, made with a land trust, allows farmers to be paid in return for stripping their land of its development rights – no new subdivisions or shopping malls allowed – and instead keeping it as farmland. In 2004, the Jordan family placed 47 acres of their property under an easement with the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust for an undisclosed sum. “The Jordans settled Cape Elizabeth,” Jordan says. “We would not have kept the farm, let alone been able to invest in the business, without this.”
To find out about agricultural easements in Ontario and the upcoming Farmland Forum, visit: Ontario Farmland Trust