MADISON — Barberry Farm may be headed toward its final harvest.
The 17.5-acre farm, located just a short walk from the waters of Long Island Sound, was put on the market by its owners, Kingsley and Kelly Goddard, about a month ago. The couple is seeking $5.65 million for the property.
Members of the Goddard family have worked the soil at Barberry Farm for 110 years, according to Kelly Goddard. It originally was owned by Judge Henry Warren Goddard, who was appointed to the Federal Circuit Court New York 1923, and who served as judge during the second trial of Alger Hiss.
The couple has five children between the ages of 15 and 33. But Kingsley Goddard said none has expressed an interest in taking over the operation of the farm.
“They have seen what we have gone through and I don’t think they want to come in and take that on,” he said. “But they have an appreciation for what farming is and where food comes from.”
And now, with the prospect that his generation may the last to farm the property, Kinglsey Goddard alternates between wistfulness and frustration.
“I have mixed feelings,” Goddard said. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years and the amount we get doesn’t begin to cover the costs. But they say if you love what you do, you don’t work a day in your life and I do love this place.”
The couple has tried a number of things to help increase the revenue the property produces.
For the past 11 years, Barberry Farm has been home to a community supported agriculture program. And the Goddards also host a series of farm-to-table events every summer.
Dinners at the Farm is done in conjunction with Jonathan Rapp, owner of the River Tavern Restaurant in Chester.
“It has such a magical feel,” Kelly Goddard said of the annual event. Both the community-supported agriculture program and the Dinners at the Farm series will go ahead as scheduled this summer even as the search for a buyer continues, she said.
The dilemma facing the Goddards is part of a larger trend of dwindling farmland in the state and the nation.
The United States Department of Agriculture released its latest Agricultural Census last month and it showed that between 2012 and 2017, Connecticut lost 55,000 acres of farmland. The total number of farms in the state decreased 7.6 percent from nearly 5,980 farms to 5,520 farms during that same period.
Nationally, the census found the number of farms and ranches declined by 3.2 percent over the five-year period to 2.04 million.
Kingsley Goddard said he sells some of the crops that Barberry Farm grows at the Wooster Square Farmers Market in New Haven and he hears from fellow farmers “that a lot of them are in the same situation.”
Madison First Selectman Tom Banisch said town officials are working with the Goddard family in an effort to keep the property as close to its current state as possible. Barberry Farm is one of three working farms left in Madison, according to Banisch.
Margaret Muir and Jim Sperry of William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty in Madison are co-listing agents for the property. Muir called Barberry Farm “a beloved landmark property.”
“People don’t own tracts of land like this anymore,” she said. “Being able to buy flowers and produce there adds a nice element to the community. It would be wonderful if a family wanted to step into the role the Goddards have right now, but it would be an enormous undertaking.”
The location of the farm, a half-mile from Long Island Sound and a mile from Madison’s town center, “opens the property up to more of an array of potential buyers,” Sperry said.
“If this were 10 miles north, it would limit the type of buyer we would be able to attract,” he said.
Muir said if a buyer were interested in using the farmland for residential development, “we know that preliminarily that the town would approve 12 home sites there.”
“But that would not necessarily be the best outcome for either the (Goddard) family or for the town,” she said.
Kelly Goddard said she and her husband “are open to many different ideas” concerning the sale of the property.