Indian Line Farm


Photo by Jason Houston

Logo by Martha Shaw


Indian Line Farm: Model for Farmland Preservation & Conservation 


In a uniquely collaborative arrangement developed by the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, the Berkshire Highlands Program of The Nature Conservancy, and farmers Elizabeth Keen and Alexander Thorp joined together to purchase Indian Line Farm in southwestern Massachusetts. The aims of the partnership are to preserve the first CSA farm project in North America, to maintain it as a working organic farm, to protect the adjacent sensitive wetlands, and to provide small-scale farmers access to affordable farmland. 

Working with the Schumacher Center for a New Economics to draft the innovative legal documents, The Nature Conservancy acquired easements on the property to permanently limit future development, while the Community Land Trust acquired the title to the land and is leasing it to Elizabeth and Alex on a 99-year basis. The farmers themselves have purchased the house, barn, and other buildings, and will gain equity through any improvements made to the farm during their tenure. The Community Land Trust retains an option to purchase the buildings and improvements back, and to resell them at their replacement cost to another farmer. 

Addressing the critical connections between ecology, economy, and community, this model project is protecting habitat, preserving agricultural property, and keeping small-scale, organic farming viable. The participation of the two land trusts provided a way for Berkshire consumers to successfully finance the purchase of the land so that the farmers can continue to farm organically and practice wise stewardship without having to use unsustainable growing methods to pay off land debt quickly.


Robyn Van En, taken by Clemens Kalischer
















Indian Line Farm: History, Articles, and Talks


A New Lease on Farmland: Assuring a Future for Farming in the Northeast 
by Susan Witt and Jay Rossier    
Online  |  PDF
A guide to CLT members to ensuring that farmland kept in a trust is used productively over the long-term.  

In Business Article: Group Effort Saves Nation's First CSA Farm 
by Susan Witt    Online  |  PDF

From Activism to Agriculture by Judith Monachina,  Berkshire Eagle    Online  |  PDF

From Farm to Front Door by Mark Hawthorne, American Chronicle    Online  

Eating for Your Community by Robyn Van En      Online
A report from the founder of CSA on the origin of CSA, the first CSA farm, and community support in action for success.

Farmers Alexander Thorp and Elizabeth Keen describe the Indian Line Farm lease agreements at the 2007  Building Sustainable Local Economies training seminar at the Schumacher Center's Library.       Online

NPR's StoryCorps Interview with Frank Lowenstein, Susan Witt, and Al Thorpe about the history of Indian Line Farm on Saturday, August 8th 2015 at the Great Barrington campus of Berkshire Community College. In the 1990s Lowenstein suggested forming the partnership that would end up saving Indian Line Farm.       Online


Indian Line Farm: Legal Documents


Lease Agreement        Online  |  PDF
Based on leases used by the Jewish National Fund and modified over the years within Massachusetts Law. Consult with your local lawyer for application to your local laws. The object is to provide leaseholders with ownership of all buildings and other improvements on the site while maintaining ownership of the land itself within the Trust. The resale restrictions call for the leaseholder to retain the current replacement value of improvements on the site, adjusted for deterioration, without also capturing the speculative land value.    

Addendum to the Lease        Online  |  PDF
This addendum is for the benefit of a mortgager of the building on leased land. It allows a mortgager to be free from resale restrictions in the event of a foreclosure. There is also ample provision for the CLT to correct any default before foreclosure. 

Land Use Plan     PDF
Details the tillable land, buffer areas, and other uses of the land. It reflects the combined ecological, community, farming, and private homestead interests of the partnership. 

Land Management Plan     Online  |  PDF
Developed in cooperation with the farmers, the management plan sets the requirements for crop and livestock production to ensure that the land stays in use and is farmed in accordance with organic standards. 

Conservation Easement    Online  |  PDF
The easement protects the ecological characteristics of the farm.  

Notice of Lease     Online  |  PDF
The Notice of Lease, description of the property leased, and the Land Use Plan are recorded at the registry of deeds after signing. 

Bill of Sale    Online  |  PDF

Property Boundaries    Online  |  PDF


Further Resources:
Comprehensive listing of CSA farms throughout the country as well as organizations
and online resources.
The personal library of Robyn Van En is cataloged and shelved together as a collection
(marked RVE) at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics Library.