KOINER FARM ... PROTECTED FOREVER!
Koiner Farm is the first urban farm in Montgomery County to be permanently preserved under a conservation easement
The Charles Koiner Center for Urban Farming (CKC Farming), in partnership with the Maryland Environmental Trust (MET), just completed Montgomery County’s first conservation easement for urban agriculture. The easement, which has been years in the making, permanently protects a one-acre property in downtown Silver Spring, known as Koiner Farm, from ever being developed. Spearheading this effort were Lynn Koiner, property owner and grantor of the easement, Kate Medina, Founder and Executive Director of CKC Farming, and Hannah Sholder, Founder and Deputy Director of CKC Farming. The progressive Board of Trustees for both CKC Farming and MET also played pivotal roles in the establishment of this forward-thinking easement. Additionally, several urban farms in the city of Baltimore, who have been on the leading edge of Maryland’s urban farming movement, played inspirational roles in this accomplishment.
In the fall of 2017, Lynn Koiner saw a documentary about one of her favorite author-illustrators - Beatrix Potter - and learned that Potter had donated 4,000 acres of farmland in Northern England back in 1943 to The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or National Beauty (commonly known as the National Trust). This got Lynn thinking about the future of her own farm. “I'm an only child; I have no heirs; I only have my cats and this farm. I guess the people I would like to benefit from this farm are my neighbors - are this community. And you know, I've told the County Council, I said I believe in reincarnation and when I come back here in 500 years this farm better be here,” says Koiner.
Around the same time, Hannah Sholder, an independent consultant on affordable housing and land rights, was apprenticing at Koiner Farm under the guidance of late Mr. Charles Koiner. Charlie was a life-long Montgomery County farmer who founded Koiner Farm back in 1983 and managed to single-handedly preserve this acre of green space for nearly four decades, all the while paying residential property taxes on all of his tract. It is not an exaggeration to say that Charlie was receiving weekly offers in the millions from developers vying for his land, but he had no interest in selling. "After working with Charlie on his farm, I realized what an unusual and special place it was, and realized that it must be preserved - and that I could help the Koiners with this" said Sholder.
Sholder reached out to MET about working with CKC Farming to co-hold an easement on the farm. MET, which is a unit of the State’s Department of Natural Resources and governed by a citizen board of trustees, serves as the statewide land trust for Maryland. The trust holds more than 1,100 easements statewide, many are co-held with local non-profit land trusts such as CKC farming. The easement on Koiner Farm is consistent with MET’s policy for protecting land in urban settings. “We are grateful for a local land trust partner like CKC Farming to help us protect this open space gem in the heart of downtown Silver Spring,” said John Turgeon, MET’s Acting Director.
The easement permits the continued agricultural use of the property and protects access for the public. CKC Farming currently hosts educational programs for local schools and community groups at the property, in addition to maintaining the farm with the help of urban farmer interns and volunteers. As co-holders of the easement, CKC Farming will serve the role of local steward, responsible for regularly monitoring the property to ensure that the intended purposes of the easement are being met. The easement permits the continued agricultural and educational use of the property and protects access for the public.
It is hoped that this easement will serve as a model for protecting other urban farms operating inside the Capital Beltway of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, and beyond.