Little Compton, Rhode Island, is its own destination, not a place you can stop by on the way to anywhere else, and not a place you want to leave once you get there.
Verdant pastures roll from West Main Road down to the sea. Cows cool off in a pond against the dramatic backdrop of the Sakonnet River. Symmetrical rows of apple trees march up the hillsides, while corn stalks wave lazily in the warm, salty air. On early summer evenings, mist rolls in off the ocean to replenish gardens, crops, and moonlit landscapes.
From vineyards to vegetable stands, and from fields of potato plants to hills of hydrangeas, Little Compton agriculture has contributed since the town’s beginnings both to the livelihood of its residents and to its unusual identity as a seaside farming community.
The Little Compton Agricultural Conservancy Trust was established in 1986 with the primary purpose of protecting the town’s agricultural property from being developed. Citizens who voted to fund the Ag Trust with a tax on each property transfer also sought to preserve open vistas, estuaries, access to the ocean and space for recreational activities. They recognized that the protection of groundwater recharging areas (wetlands, vernal ponds, and marshes) was critical because of Little Compton residents’ dependence on well water.
The Ag Trust is composed of seven trustees who meet monthly in meetings open to the community. Applications from landowners interested in selling or donating either the development rights or property in fee to the Trust are reviewed and prioritized in meetings. The Trust uses income from the town’s real estate transfer tax to leverage additional funding through grant applications to state and federal resources.
The Ag Trust works closely with its partners – the Sakonnet Preservation Association and The Nature Conservancy – to research, identify, and protect properties of mutual concern, and to steward those properties after they have been preserved. Although each conservation group has a slightly different orientation to land protection, all share a commitment to preserving the health, the rural identity, and the beauty of our Sakonnet landscape.