For over 7 decades, Gerard (Jerry) and Theresa Rivard lived, breathed, and worked the land at Rivard Farm in Springvale, established in 1926 by Jerry’s father and owned and operated by Jerry and Theresa since 1951. For the Rivards, the farm is more than just a place: it is a part of them, and a part of their community. For the last 20 years, the Rivards have been in conversation with various conservation groups to ensure that their farmland will never be lost to development. A few weeks before his passing at the age of 98, Rivard’s vision was finally realized: together with Maine Farmland Trust, Rivard Farm was protected with an agricultural conservation easement, becoming a Forever Farm that will remain a cornerstone of the area.
“I see the land as sacred. Land is to be used and cared for, not destroyed. I’ve had a good life here, it has shaped me into who I am. The farm is more than a piece of land, it is part of us and those who worked the land before us,” said Rivard at the time of the easement closing with Maine Farmland Trust. “The farm is well loved by our neighbors, friends and the community. We’ve been waiting for the right time to conserve the farm. It is a forever farm now, and that’s a good thing.”
Since the 70’s, Rivard Farm has been a popular spot in Southern Maine for its pick-your-own berries, in season each year from mid-July to late August. Area locals enjoyed picking strawberries in the 70s and 80s, before Rivard Farm shifted to focus on the high-bush blueberries and raspberries it is renowned for today. In addition to the berries enjoyed by the community, Rivard Farm also benefits the neighborhood: its remaining open acreage is cultivated for hay to feed the livestock at Noon Family Sheep Farm across the street, which is also protected with an easement.
“It was clear that placing an easement on the property was also creating a legacy that was really important to Jerry,” said Amanda Wheeler, Farmland Protection Project Manager at Maine Farmland Trust. “It has been such an honor to work with the Rivard family to protect this farm forever.” The Rivards have asked that in lieu of flowers, donations in Jerry’s memory be made to Maine Farmland Trust to continue protecting more farms across the state.
Development pressure on farmland has increased dramatically over the last decade, with skyrocketing land values, high market demand, growth in residential and commercial development, and more recently, solar development. Over the past few years, Rivard received multiple inquiries from solar companies interested in building a solar installation on his fields, but Rivard didn’t want his good farmland soils to ever be covered with panels. Rivard Farm has 102 acres of land, with 49 of those acres designated as prime farmland soils and farmland soils of statewide or local importance, meaning they are defined by the USDA as land most suitable for farming. By partnering with Maine Farmland Trust to establish an agricultural conservation easement, Rivard Farm’s 102 acres will be protected from these development pressures: its open fields and woodland will be forever preserved for agriculture. The purchase of the easement was made possible through support from the Ram Island Conservation Fund and generous members and donors of Maine Farmland Trust.
Prior to the berry operation, Rivard Farm has produced everything from dairy cows to vegetables to chickens, and Rivard spent nearly all of his life working this farmland. Rivard was 2 years old when his father purchased the farm in 1926, and throughout his near-century of life, he grew corn, potatoes, and squash, tended the dairy herd and delivered milk, and raised chickens, turkeys, and pigs, before specializing in berries for the last half-century.
“They say you can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy,” said Rivard after the easement closing. “There’s something here that stays with you forever.” Rivard lived and worked on the farm through the very end, in later years serving as the farm’s “unpaid mechanic.” Now, son Roland has taken the reins at Rivard Farm, where its bountiful berries – and Jerry’s legacy – will continue to live on for generations.