Grant to Help Save Phillips Farm (CT)

SOUTHBURY, Connecticut, 4/4/02: Today, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced an award of $439,375 to the Southbury Land Trust from the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program. The grant will be applied towards the purchase of 97-acre Phillips Farm, located on Sanford Road, adjacent to author Gladys Taber’s Stillmeadow property. The award was hailed by the Southbury Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit organization, which are leading a campaign to protect the land.

“Today’s award will help us preserve a rural landscape that has a prominent place in our town’s literary heritage,” said Tom Crider, president of the Southbury Land Trust. “This project is incredibly important to the residents of this town, and to the future generations that will call Southbury home. We are grateful to the DEP for its support.”

“The generous award from the State’s DEP is a truly fitting recognition of this important project,” said TPL project manager Elisabeth Moore. “Protecting Phillips Farm is crucial to the preservation of Southbury’s rural character, and Land Trust members, community leaders, the property’s owners, and many town residents have committed themselves and their time to this project. Today’s award recognizes this hard work and pushes us closer to our fundraising goal.”

At the request of the Southbury Land Trust, TPL began negotiating an agreement to acquire Phillips Farm last fall, and the two organizations are now working together to raise funds for the purchase and restoration. Today’s grant symbolizes a significant step towards the $1.25 million fundraising goal. The Town of Southbury has committed $250,000 to the purchase – the remainder of the funding will be sought from private sources.

“Today’s award of $439,375 from the DEP advances our goal of protecting the quality of life for our residents by preserving one of our oldest and most scenic farms while protecting a very unique environmental habitat,” explained Mark Cooper, first selectman of Southbury. “This property not only meets 7 out of 8 of the Town-mandated criteria for land acquisition, but is also key to our local effort to retain some of Southbury’s special character and historic values.”

“Having the opportunity to conserve this land for generations to come reminds me of how much we owe to the many people past and present who have made the sacrifices to pay their debts to the future,” said Phillips Farm neighbor Anthony J. Cusano, MD. “I am happy and proud that I live in a state and a town that are willing to invest so much in that future. It is a privilege to work on a project that will not only improve our community by preserving one of its important natural and historic resources, but at the same time allow us to pay some of our own debt to future generations.”

A traditional small New England farm since the early 1700s, Phillips Farm is one of Southbury’s few remaining tracts of undeveloped open space. The farm includes panoramic ridgeline views, pastoral meadows, old-growth forest, and over thirty acres of delicate marsh and wetlands. The property provides diverse habitat for several rare plant species and includes more than two dozen types of natural communities.

Phillips Farm is also noted for its literary and historical significance. Noted author and columnist Gladys Taber, who lived at neighboring Stillmeadow, frequently wrote about Phillips Farm in her best-selling books and essays. Taber, who wrote over 50 books in all, is best known for her popular series of books and magazine columns describing life in Southbury from the 1930s through the 1970s, and Taber fans travel from all over the world to visit the tranquil beauty described in her writings. In addition, the farm is integral to the Sanford Road Historic District, one of only three districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Southbury.

“In Gladys’ books, Stillmeadow and its world clearly have a meaning beyond the story of one small farm in Southbury. And over the past two years I’ve often thought – watching the grassroots effort to save Phillips Farm bring together neighbors, the landowners, town officials, our wonderful Land Trust, the tireless TPL, and the DEP – how Gram would have loved to write about this story,” added Anne Colby, granddaughter of Gladys Taber.

The Southbury Land Trust, founded in 1978, is a private nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of Southbury’s natural resources for the enjoyment of all present and future residents. SLT currently has 650 acres under its stewardship. For more information, contact Executive Director Karen Huber at (203) 264-4441.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.4 million acres nationwide, including nearly 100,000 acres in New England. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity for the second year in a row, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs.