Actress, filmmaker, and philanthropist Isabella Rossellini has donated a conservation easement on 20.8 acres of land in the Hamlet of Brookhaven.
The land was approved for 12 homes; it will now be a working organic farm overseen by Patty Gentry of Early Girl Farm in East Moriches.
“My interest in purchasing the property, and establishing an organic farm, is to do something for my community,” says Rossellini. ” Being involved in the local Hamlet Organic Garden farm [a community supported agriculture farm in Brookhaven], I knew there was an interest in expanding access to local food in the community. With Patty and the Peconic Land Trust involved, I see my role as helping to make this farm financially sustainable by using my business experience and providing another place for access to local food.”
The property is part of a 27-acre parcel purchased by Ms. Rossellini in January 2012 with conservation in mind. Ms. Rossellini’s donation extinguishes most of the development rights on 20.8 acres of property, and limits future development to one single-family residence and one guest house provided they are associated with the conservation purposes of the easement. Structures related to the agricultural use of the property will be allowed under the terms of the easement. Ms. Rossellini plans to clear approximately 6 to 7 acres of the conserved property for the farming operation and to keep the remaining acreage in woodland for now.
The property, known as South Country Farms, was owned in the recent past by the Marist Brothers, who had considered building a school on this land, prior to its sale to the developer who received the 12-lot subdivision approval. The developers, who had decided not to go forward with the development, put the property on the market when Ms. Rossellini, who had recently sold property in New York City, was looking for an opportunity to invest in the Brookhaven community.
Ms. Rossellini’s South Country Farms is within an area of Brookhaven that includes several active farm parcels, as well as a number of conservation parcels owned by Suffolk County, Brookhaven Town and/or the conservation organization Post-Morrow Foundation, including: the adjacent 9 acres, which was also owned by the Marist Brothers and includes a single-family residence. This property was purchased and conserved by the Post-Morrow Foundation, the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County; to the south across South Country Road, the Dennis Puleston Nature Preserve, a passive recreation area owned by Suffolk County; and just to the east of the Dennis Puleston Nature Preserve is Deer Run Farm, a 49-acre working farm established in partnership with Mr. and Mrs. Henry Lohmann, Suffolk County and the Post-Morrow Foundation and farmed by Bob Nolan.
Ms. Rossellini’s plans for the property include establishing agriculture on the land through lease arrangements with qualified farmers, as she has recently done with Ms. Gentry. The Peconic Land Trust will assist with the leasing arrangements as well as with the infrastructure necessary to support these farming businesses, including irrigation and fencing as needed.