Middletown, RI. – July 20, 2020 – Aquidneck Land Trust (“ALT”) has announced a campaign to conserve a new section of Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown. The 5.49-acre parcel abuts the farm, which already has 84 acres of land under conservation easement with ALT. It will be used to grow seasonal crops such as strawberries and pumpkins, and be the newest property in the 1,260 acres of conserved land that are known collectively as the Sakonnet Greenway.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to expand our island’s Greenway corridor,” said Chuck Allott, ALT’s Executive Director. “By conserving this parcel, we will increase the size of the nearly contiguous tract of protected lands that we have pieced together over the past 30 years. Development pressure on our island is high, and this land could have been turned into house lots very easily. Instead, it will continue to be farmed, as it has since at least 1939. We are thrilled to be working with Sweet Berry Farm to conserve this important property. This partnership has dated back to 1996 to when Sweet Berry was a simple roadside stand. Our relationship with the farm has only grown over the years, and it is great to continue to save land together.”
Another important conservation value of the property lies in its proximity to two of Aquidneck Island’s seven drinking water reservoirs. It is within the Maidford River/Paradise Brook drinking supply watershed and near Paradise Brook, which feeds the Paradise and Gardiner Pond reservoirs. All of the island’s reservoirs are deemed impaired by the Department of Environmental Management, and protecting nearby land is an important way of improving their future viability.
The land trust must raise $268,286 to permanently conserve the land, which was recently purchased by Jan Eckhart, one of the co-owners of Sweet Berry Farm. The farm, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, grew from a roadside pop-up tent to the travel destination it is today,
offering fresh produce, cut flowers, and pick-your-own fruits to locals and visitors to Aquidneck Island.