Agreement Would Protect Sunnyrock Farm

June 20, 2011
Boston

The Trust for Public Land has entered into an agreement with the Trustee of the Buttimer Family Trust to acquire approximately 72 acres of the 86-acre Sunnyrock Farm located between North and Fisher Streets in the Town of Walpole. The remainder of the Sunnyrock Farm property on the west side of North Street is already under agreement to be developed into eight luxury homes.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, and the Farm Trustee have set a purchase price of $2.95 million on the 72-acre parcel. TPL has already secured private donations toward the conservation purchase, and the Town of Walpole Board of Selectmen is contemplating the opportunity. Walpole's involvement would allow TPL to apply for a $500,000 Massachusetts Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity Grant, providing reimbursement to Walpole toward the purchase of the land for conservation.

"We are grateful to the Buttimer Family Trust for the opportunity to help Walpole conserve Sunnyrock Farm and hopefully restore it as a source of local food once again," said Darci Schofield, TPL project manager.

Sunnyrock Farm was once a beloved center of local farming in the community, offering residents milk in glass bottles, fresh eggs, holiday pies, Christmas trees, and hayrides pulled by the farm tractors. Before Sunnyrock closed as a farm, it was home to a local 4-H Club, which housed their goats, sheep, and rabbits on the farm and provided opportunities for families to visit and care for the animals. For the last decade, the Buttimer Family has allowed Sunnyrock Farm to lie idle and it has become overgrown.

The agreement allows until November 15 to raise the money needed for the purchase price. If efforts to raise the money are unsuccessful, the 72-acre parcel of Sunnyrock Farm will likely also be developed, potentially into nearly 30 homes.

"Open space of this size is a rare item. The Town should take the opportunity to purchase this property. The price, particularly considering the generous donation, is very reasonable. The potential of returning part of the property to agriculture is another plus," said Jack Wiley, Chairman of Walpole's Conservation Commission.

Yvette Morrill of Walpole's Friends of Adams Farm said, "Although these are very challenging financial times, I feel the opportunity to conserve open space and reestablish farming in Walpole is too good to pass up. So many of us who live near Sunnyrock Farm have fond memories of visits to the farm store and hayrides with our kids in years past. It would be wonderful if a new farm could be created on the property that would offer some of these amenities to the Walpole community again." The Friends of Adams Farm is a group of Walpole residents dedicated to the preservation of Adams Farm, a Walpole conservation land as well as adjacent land conservation lands open to the public for low-impact recreation.

Attorney Richard Gelerman, Trustee of the Buttimer Family Trust said, "The members of the Buttimer family are pleased to have the opportunity to preserve the agricultural use of the farm. The Trust acknowledges that preservation of this large portion of the land is of special interest to the community and hopes that the sale to TPL will be successfully concluded."

Working with the Southeast Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP), TPL is also exploring the possibility of restoring the property to a working farm with a lease option for a new farmer. Providing local food to the Walpole community could revitalize Walpole's historic farming community and potentially support Walpole's vibrant Farmers Market.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit conservation organization conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 3 million acres of land nationwide, including nearly 13,000 acres in Massachusetts. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.