NEW YORK, NY - 12/27/2006 - The Sheffield Land Trust (SLT) and the Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the protection of a 52-acre farm in Sheffield, Massachusetts. SLT utilized a $610,000 loan from OSI, along with $230,000 raised from local individuals, to retire the development rights on the farm, which was subsequently purchased by a local couple who plan to operate it as a diversified, organic farm.
SLT pre-acquired the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) on the Cold Spring Farm for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, which is expected to provide $520,000 for the restriction. The Commonwealth's APR program helps preserve farmland by using state and federal funds to purchase the development rights on agricultural land.
“We are pleased to help protect this important farm,” said Peter Howell, OSI's Executive Vice President. “The future of western Massachusetts hinges on protecting the working farms and forests that have been its cultural, economic and ecological lifeblood for generations. Kudos to the Sheffield Land Trust for facilitating this critical transaction.”
“Well put,” concurred Kathy Orlando, SLT's Executive Director for Land Protection, who added, “Protecting the land and farming not only provides sources of local food and direct jobs, and maintains our landscape and quality of life, but it is also essential to supporting the larger tourism economy and all the related service industries and jobs.
The parcel, located in the agriculturally rich Housatonic River Valley, was at risk from encroaching development. Roughly half of the property is currently used for hay and corn production and pasture. The other half is woodlands and wetlands that are home to a number of rare and common species, including salamanders, song birds, bobcat, deer and bear. The property also affords a scenic view across the fields to the Housatonic River and the Taconic mountains.
The transaction tapped a groundswell of community support and will help to sustain productive farming in the region.
June and Jim Wolfe, who operated a much smaller farm in nearby Ashley Falls, worked with Salisbury Bank and Trust to purchase the protected property and the farmhouse and barn. They will operate the farm as a diversified organic farm.
“For our family, this is about fulfilling dreams,” said June Wolfe, whose four kids will join them on the Cold Spring Farm. The family had been raising cows, pigs and chickens, as well as tending honeybees and cultivating a large market garden on land they had gradually cleared behind their home. The new farm will enable them to greatly expand their production, providing sufficient acreage for added crops, grazing, feed and rotation.
“The farm is Sheffield,” said Janet Stanton, one of three sisters who sold the property to the Wolfes and who praised the transaction. “It's what Sheffield has been, and what we want it to be.”
The community apparently agrees. Required to raise a “local match” for state funding, SLT has raised $230,000 toward its $282,000 goal for the project. Both the sellers and buyers have donated value as well. “The fundraising success on this project is a testament to the community's commitment to supporting local agricultural production on prime farmlands,” said SLT's Kathy Orlando.
The Housatonic River Valley, where Cold Spring Farm is located, has been a high priority for both the Sheffield Land Trust and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts's APR program, which seeks to protect productive farmland in order to sustain local agriculture. The farm, along with a dairy farm protected over the summer, are part of SLT's larger Housatonic River Agricultural and Ecological Corridor, an initiative to assemble a chain of protected farms and wildlife habitat along both sides of the Housatonic River through the heart of Sheffield.
The Sheffield Land Trust has helped purchase APRs on eight other farms in Sheffield, protecting more than 1,200 acres since 1994, and is currently working on a number of others. This is part of the more than 3000 acres of farmland, forest and wildlife habitat that the Land Trust has helped to protect since its founding in 1989. The Cold Spring Farm APR will be finalized when Massachusetts provides its share of the funding and the SLT assigns the APR to the Commonwealth. The Land Trust continues to raise the remainder of needed funds.
Since 2005, OSI has provided five loans totaling $2.3 million in western Massachusetts to protect 1,200 acres of open space. OSI has played a part in conserving two working farms, a segment of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, part of the Quabbin Reservoir Watershed, and The Great Meadow, listed as one of the state's “Ten Most Endangered Historic Resources.” Seed funding for OSI's Western Massachusetts Loan Fund has come from the Kohlberg Foundation. has protected nearly 100,000 acres in New York State. Through its Northern Forest Protection Fund and Conservation Loan Program, OSI has assisted in the protection of 1.4 million acres in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York Massachusetts, New Jersey and North Carolina.
The mission of the Open Space Institute is to protect scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to ensure public enjoyment, conserve habitats, and sustain community character. OSI achieves its goals through land acquisition, conservation easements, special loan programs, and creative partnerships.