'It's a huge part of our culture': Easton officials preserve farm to maintain town's character

Easton First Selectman David Bindelglass, in Easton, Conn. July 1, 2021.

Easton First Selectman David Bindelglass, in Easton, Conn. July 1, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

EASTON — Lakeview Orchards will be able to remain farmland for years to come thanks to a deal a deal recently announced by the town to preserve it.

Lakeview Orchards is a family owned and operated orchard that was started in 1996. The goal of the preservation effort is a part of the town’s strategy to maintain the culture and character of the historic farmland town.

“It’s a huge part of our culture,” First Selectman David Bindelglass said. “I am incredibly proud that we are able to preserve it.”

The preservation process for this farm took a number of years, dating back to before Bindelglass was elected in 2019. In fear of losing the farm, town, state and federal officials banded together to keep the farm going so that nothing new will be developed there.

“This is how we preserve Easton’s rural character and resist outside development,” Bindelglass said. “It is an effective strategy that we will continue and is the most positive step the town can take in its aggressive plan to remain the Easton that we all love and cherish.”

Bindelglass said at some point it became known that Lakeview Orchards, the Barney family farm, was having trouble keeping the farm afloat. The farm had been owned by the family for generations, but the family and the town feared what losing the farm could mean.

Eventually, the family decided to work something out and together Easton’s agriculture and conservation commissions, Bindelglass’ office and the state and federal government worked to preserve the land. The town even contributed money from the Agricultural Land Trust, a fund that had been previously set aside for this very reason.

The Barney family was unable to be reached for comment.

Bindelglass said he doesn’t know the exact reason why the farm was heading downhill.

The Barney family farm is not the only farm that has faced challenges in town. Bindelglass said within the 21 working farms in Easton, even “the most famous farm,” Silverman’s Farm, has experienced issues. In the case of Silverman’s farm, which has been around since the 1920s, the family found a young farmer who was willing to take it over and do the work.

A situation like that does not happen often.

Bindelglass said that the reasoning for preserving the land is not just to protect the farm, but to also have control over it. Without control, the land can be developed into anything — a path Easton would like to avoid.

The town has been working proactively to stop any development issues that may come up in the future.

“You know it’s really who we are as a town and its really what we want to stay,” Bindelglass said. “People don’t think of Fairfield County being farm land, but Easton is a place of wide open spaces and great farms and a truly rural community, which is pretty unique.”