BOSTON (WWLP) – A dozen farms across the state are set to share nearly $5 million in grant money to help preserve and protect their land.
Nine of the 12 farms are in western Massachusetts, including three farms in Hampshire County, two in Franklin County, and four in the Berkshires. According to the American Farmland Trust, Massachusetts is ranked third in the country for the percentage of farmland projected to be lost by 2040.
Climate change is also impacting crop yields. This year alone, a February deep freeze, May frost, and July flooding contributed to catastrophic losses in western Massachusetts.
A list of the farms awarded grants includes the following:
Community Harvest Project Inc. – Harvard, MA: Award $1,239,000
The 70-acre APR on this apple and peach orchard will be jointly held by MDAR and the Town of Harvard, with the Harvard Conservation Trust holding an easement for a trail along the orchard’s southern edge. This initiative safeguards critical farmland and strengthens local, regional, and state-level conservation efforts by while ensuring that farming can continue. In addition to protecting valuable farmland, the Prospect Hill Community Orchard contributes to the preservation of an extensive conservation corridor. The orchard, along with Dean’s Hill, Fruitlands, and the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge, will form a cohesive network of conserved lands. To promote public access and passive recreation, the constructed trail will be accessible throughout most of the year, allowing visitors to engage in activities such as hiking and birdwatching. Community Harvest Project is a non-profit farm that engages volunteers to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for hunger relief. The fruit from the orchard is donated to local food pantries. The Commonwealth’s contribution toward the APR purchase was matched with $1,261,000 in local funds from the Town of Harvard, Sudbury Valley Trustees, Harvard Conservation Trust, other grant funds, and a $350,000 donation of value.
North Plain Farm – Great Barrington, MA: Award: $828,000
The 75-acre property consists of approximately 85% (64 acres) of prime farmland. Owner Sean Stanton is a local organic farmer who manages two farms, one within ¼ mile of this property and another in Monterey. He grows crops, raises chickens and cows and sells to a variety of retail establishments and restaurants in the area and as far away as New York City. The property is bordered by the Housatonic River. The Town of Great Barrington provided an additional $92,000 towards the purchase through use of its CPA funds.
Hartsbrook Farm – Hadley, MA Award: $567,000
This 68-acre APR is part of a larger dairy operation that has been in the same family since 1810, known as Hartsbrook Farm. In addition to these 68 acres, 185 acres of Hartsbrook Farm was previously protected by APR. The family milks approximately 100 cows and has a herd of over 200. Eighty six percent of the soils on the property are classified as nationally significant or state important agricultural soils. The Town of Hadley provided an additional $90,000 towards the purchase through use of its CPA funds and the landowner contributed a significant donation of value.
MacKenzie Farm – New Marlborough, MA Award: $531,000
This 56-acre APR parcel is in an area of high agricultural activity. The farmer currently grows hay on the parcel, which he uses to feed his livestock and he sells the rest to local farmers. Nearly the entire property is comprised of nationally and state important farmland soils. The New Marlborough Land Trust provided an additional $104,000 towards the purchase of the APR.
Fairfields Dairy Farm – Williamstown, MA Award: $327,450
The 17-acre parcel is currently used for corn production for Fairfields Dairy, which milks around 150 head on over 400 acres of APR land. The entire property is comprised of soils of statewide agricultural importance. The Town of Deerfield provided an additional $56,000 towards the purchase price, the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation provided $10,000 and the landowner provided a generous donation of value.
Shadi-Oak Farm- West Bridgewater, MA Award: $324,000
Owned by the Howard family since the King’s Grant in the 1600’s Shadi-Oak Farm has never ceased as an active operation. The 69-acre property is bordered on two sides by the Town River and has a natural spring and stream running through its center. The farm was a dairy at one time, but at present the Howards, along with their daughter, raise beef cattle and grow hay for silage and sale to other farms. The Town of West Bridgewater provided an additional $36,000 towards the purchase price and the landowner provided a generous donation of value.
Handrich Farm – Hadley, MA Award: $234,000
This 40-acre property is located on Moody Bridge Road in Hadley, with multiple APR properties in the area. The property is partially rented to Plainville Farm for vegetable rotation, and rented to another farmer for hay production. Over three quarters of the property is comprised of nationally or state significant agricultural soils. The Town of Hadley provided an additional $26,000 towards the purchase through use of its CPA funds.
Town Line Dairy Farm – Upton, MA Award: $190,000
Worcester County is designated as most at risk region of MA (via American Farmland Trust Report Farms Under Threat) Farms Under Threat – American Farmland Trust. This 28 acre APR is used primarily for rotational grazing. The owners graze beef year-round with seasonal poultry and pork production. In addition to the livestock, the farm utilizes 2 hoop houses and an acre of land for vegetable production and hopes to obtain organic certification in the future. The products are sold retail from a stand on the farm. The property is predominantly comprised of nationally significant and state important agricultural soils. The Town of Upton provided an additional $15,000 towards the purchase price and the landowner provided a generous donation of value.
Balderdash Cellars – Richmond, MA Award: $187,844
This 12.43-acre parcel situated along Richmond Pond has been farmed for 150+ years and was purchased by the Hanson family in 2017 to relocate and expand their popular vineyard and winery operation, Balderdash Cellars. Two tenant farmers, including Three Maples Market Garden utilize approximately 3 acres of the property to produce a variety of vegetables including greens, tomatoes, root vegetables, and pumpkins. The remainder of the land is utilized by the owners for vineyard grapes and hay harvesting. Tenant farmers sell produce through CSA and a farmstand located on the property. Balderdash Cellars is a popular winery in the Berkshires, utilizing a combination or purchased grapes and cold hardy hybrid grapes grown on site to produce their wines. The family contributed a significant donation of value and also donated 5.73 acres of woodlands and wetlands into the APR.
Fisk Farm – South Deerfield, MA Award: $117,000
This 7.4-acre APR which is nearly all nationally significant agricultural soils and is located in a very large successful APR block where agricultural land is in high demand. The property has been leased to local farmers to grow hay and corn, and the barn located on the APR land is used as a cow shelter by an abutting farmer. The Town of Deerfield provided an additional $13,000 towards the purchase and the landowner provided a significant donation of value.
The Atherton Farm – Buckland, MA: Award$108,000
This APR hosts approximately 32.5 acres of hay and corn sileage for nearby Clesson’s River Dairy Farm and a farmstand that markets vegetables from the property. Sixty seven percent of the parcel is classified as nationally or state important agricultural soils. The owner provided a significant donation of value.
Gralinski Farm – Hadley, MA Award: $99,000
This 10+ acre farm is located near several existing APRs and is well suited to agricultural use due to it being comprised of mostly nationally significant and statewide important agricultural soils. The property is used primarily by Wally Czajkowski of Plainville Farm for vegetables. With over 100 APRs, Hadley has the more protected farms than any municipality in the state. The Town of Hadley provided an additional $11,000 towards the purchase through use of its CPA funds.
“For generations, Massachusetts farms have been a crucial part of the fabric of our rural communities, and we need to ensure that they remain prosperous for generations to come,” said Governor Maura Healey. “With rising land costs threatening the future of agriculture in Massachusetts, the APR Program protects against this negative trend and preserves our precious farmland.”
“Our farmers play a critical role in being responsible stewards of the land,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “They work to preserve and protect the open and working landscape of hundreds of thousands of acres across Massachusetts, which in turn contributes to the overall health and well-being of everyone in the state. The APR Program incentivizes our farming community to maintain these farmlands in the face of growing challenges.”
“As we continue to respond to the impacts of climate change, it is now more important than ever to protect our valuable farmland and ensure the resilience of our agricultural economy and food security,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper. “We are proud to work with our partners to ensure these farms continue to produce fresh, local food for generations to come in Massachusetts.”
“Massachusetts farms and farmers continue to face enormous challenges in the 21st century,” said MDAR Commissioner Ashley Randle. “Whether it’s the high cost of land, extreme weather events, increase input costs, an aging population, or a tough labor market, there is no shortage of issues that pose a significant risk to the viability and sustainability of farming in the Commonwealth. Our APR program tackles the issue of land access by preserving farmland acreage in perpetuity which will guarantee that it will only be used for agriculture. I would like to thank our farmers in these 12 projects that will place 472 acres of land into permanent agricultural protection.”
“The APR program is an effective investment in farmers and local agriculture and perhaps has never been more important than today as we seek to improve resiliency and safeguard our environment,” said State Senator Paul Mark (D – Pittsfield). “Congratulations to our five district farms for taking this important step towards protecting our natural resources, improving our local food security, and keeping western Massachusetts scenic and beautiful for years to come.”
“Since its inception in 1977, the APR program has preserved and protected over 75,000 acres of valuable farmland from development,” said State Representative Natalie Blais (D – Sunderland). “I am grateful to the farmers who chose to participate in the program to ensure that this land will forever be preserved for agricultural use.”
“The APR funding keeps the character of our communities by preserving important farmland permanently and I am grateful that the Community Harvest Project in Harvard has received this critical funding,” said State Representative Danillo Sena (D – Acton). “The farm can continue providing food to local organizations and the added trail will encourage the community to explore nature along the conservation corridor.”