Dairy farmer Matthew Peckham and his wife Chrissy knew they wanted their sixth-generation Elm Farm to stay in the family for perpetuity. Over the past 20 years, Matt watched as neighboring farms in Woodstock, Connecticut, were carved into subdivisions. In 2015, Matt decided to take action to protect his 117-acre farm and decided to apply to Connecticut’s Farmland Preservation Program.
“We are fortunate to live in a state that thinks about farmland and the future of our agricultural economy,” Matt recently said. “Agriculture is a huge part of the quality of life that we enjoy in our state. Preserving farmland is one of the most important things that we can do for future generations. I’m happy to be a part of this chapter of Connecticut’s agricultural history.”
Fortunately, Elm Farm, comprised nearly all of prime and important farmland soils, was an ideal candidate for the program. Due to high development pressure in the area, the state worked quickly to put the farm into an agricultural conservation easement. The family then reinvested the money they received from selling their development rights to purchase Matt’s cousin’s farm and open a farm-to-table store that sells fresh farm-raised meats, milk, cheese, and ice cream, among many other locally produced items. Elm Farm LLC sells a majority of their milk to Cabot; however, some of their milk will now be bottled and sold at the farm-to-table market.
Additionally, when Matt took over his family farm in 2004, he became committed to becoming an environmental steward and won a Green Pasture award for his commitment to sustainable agriculture. To ensure his dairy farm will continue, Matt and Chrissy have made many improvements to the farm over the years. Before their latest venture opening a farm-to-table store, the Peckhams invested in a 1.4 million gallon manure pit, which ensures none of the runoff from the farm ends up in local waterways and reduces the farm’s use of commercial fertilizers. This, with a combination of minimal till practices, will help to conserve the farm’s land and natural resources.
Both Matt and Chrissy are dedicated to ensuring the farm continues with the next generation. Matt’s 17 year old son, Caleb, recently attended a summer program at the University of Kansas to learn about agriculture practices happening across the United States. Caleb came back to Connecticut with a strengthened desire to continue his family legacy as a farmer. While in Kansas, Caleb grew an appreciation for his parents’ commitment to sustainable agricultural practices.
Since Matt preserved his farm, farmers in Woodstock continue to look at Connecticut’s Farmland Preservation Program as an alternative to selling their land to a developer. The program provides farmers with additional income they can reinvest into keeping their farms economically viable and sustain them for the next generation