New Milford has a proud farming past, and -- unlike many other former agrarian communities -- the town has made a commitment to maintaining farming as part of its future.

We applaud that commitment and hope future community leaders will show the same respect for the preservation of farming and open space that past and current leaders have displayed.

Sullivan Farm, the 104-acre property purchased by the town in 1997, has been a real success story, notably through the efforts of Youth Agency director Mark Mankin and the dozens of employees and volunteers who have kept it a working farm.

Over the past decade, Mr. Mankin and his young staff have restored the old red hay barn, maintained the farm equipment, developed hiking trails, produced vegetables sold at their farm stand and to markets, and operated a sugar house where they make maple syrup.

Now a local, not-for-profit group called the Friends of Sullivan Farm is poised to take over operation of the farm with a goal of ensuring it remains a farm in perpetuity. The group is currently hoping to hire a farm manager with youth development experience and plans to sign a five-year lease with the town in the spring.

It is not surprising the town of New Milford purchased Sullivan Farm to begin with, or that it has done such a wonderful job running it, or that a group of local residents has formed to take over operation of the farm.

To be sure, much farmland in town has been sold to developers and turned into housing subdivisions over the years. But New Milford has long shown great respect for farming and open space -- through good times and bad, through Democratic and Republican administrations.

Way back in 1965, well before most communities even thought about preserving open space, a group of townspeople launched the Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust, which has become the largest land trust in Connecticut.

Sunny Valley Farm has long stood as a proud symbol of the town's agrarian past. One of its properties under the umbrella of the Nature Conservancy, the Fort Hill Farm, has evolved as a thriving community farming site.

Private groups and the town have also teamed up to help preserve the agrarian life through the acquisition of properties like Harris Hill Farm and the leasing of Davenport Farm, a property surrounded by Weantinoge property along Ridge Road.

The Friends of Sullivan Farm will help preserve the farming legacy in New Milford and will continue to offer local youths the opportunity for valuable work experience and provide home-grown produce for area residents interested in eating healthy diets.

Through the efforts of The Friends and other groups, New Milford's farming roots will continue to grow and flourish.