Aspetuck Land Trust acquires Gilbertie's farmland in Easton

EASTON — Aspetuck Land Trust announced Thursday the acquisition of Gilbertie’s Farm, a picturesque 34-acre working organic farm adjacent to the land trust’s Randall’s Farm Preserve on Sport Hill Road.

Sal Gilbertie will continue to farm the land and will lease the property from ALT.

Gilbertie’s Farm will anchor Aspetuck Land Trust’s larger vision to create a multi-town Green Corridor involving a 40,000-acre belt of land in Easton, Weston, Redding, Wilton, Westport, and Fairfield, ALT said.

Gilbertie’s Farm is the largest certified organic greenhouse operation in the Northeast and a staple in the Fairfield County food system for many decades.

The land trust intends to keep the property as a working farm and is exploring ways the farm can be more accessible to the community.

ALT acquired the farm for $2 million from its owner, Dan Levinson of Westport and his partners. The sale closed April 24. Levinson organized a group to purchase the farm in 2013 when its bank threatened foreclosure and development.

In a release, ALT said, “Levinson has given the land trust a mortgage on the farm and made a generous financial gift that reduced the purchase price significantly. In addition, thanks to donations by land trust members, Aspetuck Land Trust was able to contribute significant funds to complete the transaction.”

“Our intent from the outset was to support Sal Gilbertie and save his farm from development, and we are thrilled to now put it in ALT’s hands for the long term. We strongly support ALT’S vision of the farm as a transformational open space centerpiece for their Green Corridor Initiative,” Levinson said.

Sal Gilbertie said, “We want to thank Dan Levinson for his help and Aspetuck Land Trust for purchasing the farm and preserving Gilbertie’s Organics forever and allowing us to continue to grow and serve our communities with quality herbs, vegetables and microgreens.”

Bill Kraekel, president of Aspetuck Land Trust, said in a release, “We are pleased to be able to make this announcement in this very difficult economic and public health environment. That said, we continue to need funds to protect other parcels in the Green Corridor that are at clear risk for development. For us to succeed in keeping Fairfield County’s serene pockets of rural beauty which we know and love, we will need more people to step forward as Dan has done to make this financially possible.”

David Brant, executive director of the land trust, said there is still much to do.

“Despite the challenges we face, we are happy to share this positive news. Our mission is protecting open space. Land doesn’t save itself. Saving a working farm today will have benefits for many generations to come,” he said.

ALT said it is in the process of raising additional funds to help with the acquisition, including submitting a grant application to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, and said it will keep the public informed as plans for enhancing the property unfold.