Internationally acclaimed actress, filmmaker, and philanthropist Isabella Rossellini has donated the development rights to 20.8 acres of land in the Hamlet of Brookhaven to the Peconic Land Trust. The land will be put into agricultural production by Ms. Rossellini working with the Trust and farmer Patty Gentry of Early Girl Farm to establish an organic farm on the property. 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.
“Ms. Rossellini’s conservation of this property is truly a gift to the Brookhaven community,” Peconic Land Trust President John v.H. Halsey said in a press release. “The potential existed for this to become another subdivision. Now it will join other conserved farmland and open space in the area and become a working farm that will serve the local community.”
The property is part of a 27-acre parcel purchased by Ms. Rossellini in January 2012 with a conservation purpose in mind. The parcel already had Conditional Final Subdivision approval from the Town of Brookhaven for 12 residential lots. 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 that 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 currently plans to clear approximately 6 to 7 acres of the conserved property for the farming operation and to keep the remaining acreage as woodland.
The property, which is known as South Country Farms, had been owned in the recent past by the Marist Brothers, who had considered building a school on the land, prior to its sale to the developer who received the 12-lot subdivision approval. The developer, who had decided not to go forward with the development, put the property on the market at a time when Ms. Rossellini had recently sold property in New York City and was looking for an opportunity to invest in the Brookhaven community.
“Always my intention in purchasing the property was to conserve the property and to establish an organic farm there,” said Ms. Rossellini. “My interest in purchasing the property, and establishing an organic farm, is to do something for my community. Being involved in the local Hamlet Organic Garden (HOG) 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.”
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.