BETHLEHEM/WOODBURY — The tale of the Kuss family’s farm is a love story that will live on in perpetuity.
Through a partnership with the Connecticut Farmland Trust, Dick and Peggy Ann Kuss recently placed a conservation easement on a 61-acre parcel of their 450-acre farm. Due to this loving gesture, the couple’s land will be permanently preserved for agriculture use; from now until the end of time.
The Kuss family had previously protected two separate parcels of their farmland through the CT Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Program. The 61-acre piece is the third installment of their conservation efforts.
Through the years, Dick and Peggy Ann Kuss began purchasing farmland in Bethlehem and Woodbury in order to fulfill the couple’s lifelong dream of operating a farm.
“My wife and I are eighty now, and we have 40 years on the farm,” Dick Kuss said. “From a young age, I knew that I wanted to farm.”
The couple now operates a successful high-end hay business, distributing their product to horse farms across Connecticut and New York.
Kuss Farm also grows sweet corn, pumpkins and vegetables, which are available for purchase at the farm’s roadside stand in Woodbury.
According to Kathleen Doherty, conservation manager for the Connecticut Farmland Trust, the preservation of their farmland will allow the couple to “rest assured” in knowing that their land cannot be converted to a non-agricultural type of use.
“We’re just really happy to be able to support them and their business, and help them plan for the future of their farm,” Doherty said.
Doherty explained that due to the agricultural conservation easement that has been placed on the land, all future use of the land will be restricted solely to farming and forestry purposes. The restrictions are permanent and cannot be removed. The easement will prevent any type of residential and industrial development, such as condos, from being built on the land.
Looking ahead to the future, Dick Kuss is hopeful that his family’s cherished farmland can benefit future farmers.
“There are a lot of young people with an interest in farming, but they can’t farm because there is no land available for them,” Dick Kuss said. “Maybe young people can use this farm in the future.”
The Kuss farm currently has “some younger folks” who help Dick and Peggy tend to the day-to-day farming activities, Doherty said. This assistance will ensure that the farm will continue to raise high-quality hay for the foreseeable future.
The initial decision to become a farming family is a career move that came much later in Dick’s life. He and his wife had previously operated a school bus business up until middle age.
Despite the fact that neither had come from a previous farming background, the couple knew that operating a farm was their destined path. Together, they decided to begin acquiring farmland and pursue their suppressed desire of running a successful farming business.
As the years have passed, the Kusses decided to take action to protect their beloved farmland in order to benefit the farmers that will come after them.
In order to pursue their goal, the Kuss family became familiar with the state Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Program. The primary goal of the program is to “protect the prime and important farmland soils in the state in order to maintain and preserve agricultural land for the future,” according to its website.
After the Kusses applied to the State to preserve their 61-acre parcel, the State then contacted the Connecticut Farmland Trust to serve as a preservation partner. The final component came together after CFT and the State jointly secured matching funds from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service in order to purchase an easement on the parcel.
Throughout the process of preserving their farmland, the Kusses worked closely with the various entities involved, particularly CFT Executive Director Elisabeth Moore.
Moore explained that the Kuss’s decision to protect their farmland will ensure that it remains available for the next generation of farmers. Farming is critical to the state’s short and long-range needs for the production and distribution of fresh produce and livestock feed.
“Dick and Peggy Kuss are committed and conservation-minded farmers who work tirelessly to maintain their farm,” Moore said. “I have great admiration for the family’s dedication to conservation.”
Since its founding in 2002, CFT has protected 57 family farms and over 4,400 acres of land throughout Connecticut. CFT is the only land trust in the state dedicated solely to the protection of agricultural land.
Information about the Connecticut Farmland Trust and its programs is available online at www.ctfarmland.org.