PRLT celebrates Randall Orchards Conservation

PRLT Announces $100,000 Endowment Fund

Randall orchard ceremony
PRLT President Mike Parker with Robert “T-Bone” Randall.

About fifty members and supporters of PRLT met along Randall Road in Standish under blue skies Saturday to place signs dedicating 482 acres of apple orchards and woodlands to agricultural use forever.

Robert “T-bone” Randall, heir apparent to the farm, represented his father at the event and welcomed those in attendance. Two signs were unveiled at the boundary of the conserved property. One acknowledged the Land for Maine’s Future Program (LMF) for its part in helping to preserve the land. The other, from PRLT, honors the owner and grantor of the conservation easement, Richard Randall, and thanks the many groups and individuals who aided in the transactions necessary to effect the conservation.

Participants then adjourned to the Sebago Room at the Standish Municipal Center for music by Cumberland Crossing band and refreshments from the Frog and Turtle Restaurant, generously underwritten by Norway Savings Bank.

Mike Parker, PRLT President, led a tribute to the many participants and supporters of the five year process. The principle recipient, Dick Randall, sadly, could not be present due to lung problems that restrict his mobility. However, he was frequently depicted, sitting atop his throne-like riding mower, and so remained in the thoughts of those present.

Stephanie Gilbert of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry represented the State of Maine, and its partner agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA,) a co-funder of the Randall Project. She reflected fondly on her first encounter with Dick in 2008 to discuss conserving his farm. Facing him on a vintage wooden glider on his lawn, she was repeatedly asked to “give me a good reason not to do this.” She apparently could not, because Dick recognized the merits and became tenaciously determined to see it through.

LMF Board member, Neil Piper of Gorham, recalled that the Randall Project faced in 2013 the same problem with the delayed release of publicly approved bonds that now confronts about thirty currently approved, but unfunded, LMF projects. He applauded the Randall Project as the largest privately owned agricultural conservation project this close to Portland.

Dick’s flying exploits helped to shape both his vision for his farm and his determination to see it through. While overflying southern Maine during many years of towing banners from his landing strip in Standish, he became aware of the steady conversion of woodlots and meadows to houses and parking lots. He vowed not to let his farm, purchased by his grandfather in 1906 and deeded to him by his father in 1980, succumb to the same development pressures. He says that his vision for what this means for the community matured as the project progressed. He now believes the importance of preserving a source of locally grown food to be as great as perpetuating open space and woodlots.

The airplane also helped define Dick’s remarkable determination. In February, 2011, two years into the project, Dick was severely injured when his Piper PA-12 crashed onto the frozen surface of Sebago Lake in a snow squall. His injuries may have slowed his gait for a time, but he never wavered in his commitment to keep his farm in agriculture.

Parker then paid tribute to Randall’s generosity. “Dick did not consider the proceeds from the conservation easement to be earned income,” he said. “Unlike profits from the sale of apples and other farm products, or compensation from towing banners and dusting crops, Dick did nothing to enhance the development value of land that was passed down to him, and so felt he did not deserve to benefit personally from the sale of its development rights.” Dick often said he “didn’t do this for the money. About half of it,” he noted wryly, “went back to the government in April. I want the rest to benefit others less fortunate, such as our wounded warriors.”

Parker closed by announcing that last December, Dick Randall demonstrated his generosity by donating $100,000 to the PRLT Opportunity Fund, PRLT’s first-ever endowment. “This gift is the result of a strong bond of mutual admiration that has developed between Dick and PRLT over the last half decade,” says Parker. “The proceeds of this fund, combined with Dick’s prior donation for stewardship, will strengthen PRLT substantially into the future and set an example for others.” The fund has been invested with the Maine Community Foundation, a strong supporter of PRLT over many years. “Our board is thrilled with this gift,” he said, “and we look forward to fulfilling our stewardship role at Randall Orchards and our other properties long after our present board members have been supplanted by others, equally committed. This is an exciting time for our growing land trust and we have Dick Randall to thank for much of the excitement.”