Area farms put land into preservation

Sue Atherton of the Atherton Farm in Buckland.

Sue Atherton of the Atherton Farm in Buckland. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 08-21-2023 3:59 PM

Twelve Massachusetts farms, including five in Franklin and Hampshire counties, will share in $4.7 million in Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) funds announced Friday by the Healey-Driscoll administration.

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ (MDAR) APR program purchases land from farmers to permanently protect its agricultural usage.

The program offers to pay farmland owners the difference between the “fair market value” and the “agricultural value” of their farms in exchange for a permanent deed restriction, preventing any use of the property that could damage its agricultural usefulness. The restriction also limits the resale worth to agricultural value.

■Fisk Farm in South Deerfield was awarded $117,000.

This 7.4-acre APR is nearly all nationally significant agricultural soils. 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 toward the purchase and the landowner provided a significant donation of value.

■The Atherton Farm in Buckland was awarded $108,000.

This APR hosts approximately 32.5 acres of hay and corn silage for nearby Clesson’s River Dairy Farm and a farm stand that markets vegetables from the property. Sixty seven percent of the parcel contains agricultural soils of state or national importance. The owner provided a significant donation of value.

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■Hartsbrook Farm in Hadley was awarded $567,000 for a 68-acre APR, part of a larger dairy operation that has been in the same family since 1810.

The farm has previously placed 185 acres under 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 being of national or state significance.

The town of Hadley provided an additional $90,000 in Community Preservation Act funds toward the purchase, and the landowner made a significant donation of value.

■Handrich Farm, a 40-acre property on Moody Bridge Road in Hadley, was awarded $234,000.

The property is partially rented to Plainville Farm for vegetable rotation, and rented to another farmer for hay production. More than three-quarters of the property consists of agricultural soils of state or national significance. The town of Hadley provided $26,000 in CPA funds toward the purchase.

■Gralinski Farm in Hadley was awarded $99,000.

This approximately 10-acre property is used primarily by Wally Czajkowski of Plainville Farm for vegetables. The town provided an additional $11,000 in CPA funds toward the purchase.

With over 100 APRs, Hadley has more protected farms than any municipality in the state.

“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,” state Sen. Paul Mark D-Becket, said in a statement.

“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,” Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield, stated.