Credit: Aquidneck Land Trust

The Aquidneck Land Trust (“ALT”) today announced that it has announced the conservation of 11.48 acres of farmland across two parcels on Moitoza Lane in Portsmouth.

The property is located within the St. Mary’s Pond and Sisson Pond drinking water supply watershed has 100% prime farmland soils, and is near other conserved lands such as Wicks Nurseries, Spruce Acres Farm, and Cloverbud Ranch. The conservation easement purchased ensures the land will be protected as open space in perpetuity, according to a press release from ALT.

Credit: Aquidneck Land Trust

“This is a success story for farmland conservation on the island,” said Alex Chuman, Conservation Director in a statement. “When the two parcels of land were listed on the hot real estate market in 2021, we connected with the owners of the adjacent farmland, Paul and Sylvia Zurlo, to try and partner on their conservation. This land ranked highly on our priority list and we were eager to protect it. The majority of the property was historically farmed and was well suited to be farmed again.” 

After getting an appraisal for the development rights, ALT writes that they and the Zurlos worked together to conserve the land; the Zurlos purchased the property in 2021, and ALT paid for a conservation easement covering both parcels in early 2023. Other than outzones around two existing houses, all of the property is now conserved. About two-thirds of the property is farmland and the remaining third natural vegetation. “I am really pleased that this property has been conserved,” said Paul Zurlo in a statement. “The land will remain as open space and will provide local farmers with prime land to farm. ALT is a great partner, and together we’ve protected an important Aquidneck Island farm property.”

Credit: Aquidneck Land Trust

The Zurlos have leased the farmland to Hawk & Handsaw Farm, a small market farm business that sells wholesale and has a CSA, according to ALT. The farmers practice no-till agriculture and specialize in vegetable crops, culinary/medicinal herbs, edible flowers, fiber and natural dye crops, and specialty culinary crops. 

“This is very exciting for multiple reasons,” said Chuman. “Expanding the mid-island corridor of conserved lands protects our drinking water reservoirs, wildlife habitat contiguity, and scenic views. This deal also provided opportunity for a local farm to expand their operation and rejuvenate the fallow land.  We are so grateful to the Zurlos and to all of our supporters who recognize the value of protecting key properties.” The State of RI Agricultural Land Preservation Commission, who has partnered with ALT on a number of farm conservation projects on the island, also contributed to the purchase of development rights. 

ALT is the oldest accredited land trust in Rhode Island. Since 1990, it has conserved 96 properties covering 2,792 acres of land on Aquidneck Island, or over 11% of the island’s total acreage. 

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