BETHLEHEM-WOODBURY — Connecticut Farmland Trust has announced the preservation of Kuss Farm in Bethlehem and Woodbury. This 61-acre parcel of the 450-acre farm was protected in a joint effort in partnership by the state Department of Agriculture, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Services and CFT. Dick and Peggy Ann Kuss began purchasing farmland decades ago to fulfill Dick’s lifelong dream of becoming a farmer.
“My wife and I are 80 now, and we have 40 years on the farm,” said Dick. “From a young age, I knew that I wanted to farm.”
Neither Dick nor Peggy was from a farming background. Until they were nearly 40, the Kusses operated a school bus business. The couple made a career change to start their farm but kept the school bus business going for a while so that they would have income to buy additional farmland and could farm during the summer growing season when schools were out.
Today, Kuss Farm is the third-largest hay business in Connecticut, selling and distributing hay to horse farms across Connecticut and New York. The farm also grows sweet corn, pumpkins and vegetables for its roadside stand on Route 132 in Woodbury.
The Kuss family has already preserved two parcels of their 450-acre farm through the state Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Program; this 61-acre piece is the third.
When the Kuss family applied to the state to preserve this parcel, the state reached out to CFT to be a preservation partner. CFT and the state jointly secured matching funds from the USDA-NRCS to purchase an easement on the 61 acres.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Kuss family to permanently protect this third parcel of agricultural lands,” said Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt. “Through collaboration with our partners, we are able to ensure that this diversified farmland remains available to future farmers while meeting the needs of Connecticut now through the production and distribution of fresh vegetables and livestock feed.”
The state Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Program was established in 1978 to protect the prime and important farmland soils in the state in order to maintain and preserve agricultural land for the future.
“Placing these 61 acres of the Kuss Farm under a conservation easement through our Agricultural Conservation Easement Program is another important step in our mission to protect the state’s valuable working lands,” said Thomas L. Morgart, Connecticut state conservationist for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“This farm contains some of the best soils in the state. Permanently protecting it and its high-yielding soils are of major importance in meeting Connecticut’s – and the nation’s – short- and long-range needs for food and fiber,” he said.
“Dick and Peggy Kuss are committed and conservation-minded farmers who work tirelessly to maintain their farm,” said Elisabeth Moore, Connecticut Farmland Trust executive director. “And thanks to them and their choice to protect their land now, it makes Bethlehem and Woodbury even more viable for the next generation of farmers.
“I have great admiration for the family’s dedication to conservation, and it was a pleasure to work once again with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Land Preservation Program and the USDA-NRCS.”
When asked about what is next for the farm, Dick said, “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. Maybe young people can use this farm in the future.”
The Kuss family will continue to raise high-quality hay for the foreseeable future.
Agricultural conservation easements prohibit residential and industrial development but allow commercial agriculture and construction of agricultural structures on designated areas of the land.
Since its founding in 2002, CFT has protected 57 family farms, covering over 4,400 acres. CFT is the only land trust in the state dedicated solely to the protection of agricultural land.
CFT is a private, accredited 501(c)(3) nonprofit that relies on Connecticut residents to support its work. Additional information can be found at CTFarmland.org.