Allard, Bean Farms Conserved in Northampton, MA

December 13, 2010

Today The Trust for Public Land announced the successful purchase and permanent protection of two farm properties along the Mill River in the Florence section of Northampton, Mass., concluding more than a year of efforts to conserve the Allard and Bean properties and clearing a path to a final set of transactions in early 2011.

In a series of real estate transactions on December 1 and December 13, The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, partnered with local and state governments to achieve permanent protection of 181 acres in the Florence section of Northampton. TPL purchased the 44-acre Bean Farm and the 136-acre Allard Farm, sold 35 acres of floodplain forest for a new greenway and 24 acres on Meadow Street for new recreation fields to the City of Northampton, and conveyed an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) on the remaining 121 acres so that they will remain farmland forever.

"This is a remarkable win-win-win for the City of Northampton to protect and enhance outstanding agricultural, recreational, and environmental benefits, and to help farmers produce food locally for our citizens," said Clem Clay, TPL's Connecticut River program director. "TPL is proud to have played our part in conserving this Connecticut River valley gem and we thank the City of Northampton, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Bean and Goulet families, and the engaged citizenry whose persistence is paying off in the fulfillment of an ambitious vision."

The conservation of the two farms stems from a 2009 City-brokered agreement to purchase the Bean Farm at a price of $910,000 for recreational and/or agricultural conservation. The Bean Farm Task Force was created to resolve heated local debates over the optimal use of that farm for public benefit. It was expanded and renamed the Bean-Allard Farm Task Force after TPL negotiated a purchase agreement with the Goulet family in January, also making the abutting 136-acre Allard Farm available for conservation at a price of $1,550,000. The conveyances reflect a widely supported compromise to balance continued local farming with expanded recreational fields and protection of important ecological resources.

Ten percent of the funding for the $1,135,000 APR came from the Northampton's Community Preservation Committee, and the remainder was secured from the Agricultural Preservation Restriction program of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. MDAR expects half of the APR investment to be reimbursed by the federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"Under the leadership of Governor Patrick, Massachusetts has preserved more than 72,000 acres as farmland, parks, and wildlife habitat," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles. "This achievement was made possible in partnership with local officials, community groups and land trusts like The Trust for Public Land, who work with us each day to preserve open space and protect our natural resources for future generations."

"State investments in the permanent protection of agricultural land preserves our working landscapes and the farm businesses that generate $500 million in sales annually," said Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner Scott Soares. "We are proud to be a strong partner with The Trust for Public Land, Grow Food Northampton and the city of Northampton, and applaud their commitment to this project."

The city's proposed Florence Fields-the athletic fields complex, including five multi-sport fields and two baseball diamonds-would be adjacent to protected farmland on the north side of Meadow Street. Funding to acquire the recreation land came from Northampton's Community Preservation Committee and a grant from the Massachusetts Division of Conservation Services that also funds a detailed design of the ball field complex.

The final piece of the puzzle is the acquisition for the Northampton Conservation Commission of all of the forested land along the Mill River, funded entirely by the Northampton Community Preservation Committee. This land adds to the Mill River Greenway, which consists of a number of parcels along the Mill River from Leeds to Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, including two parcels donated by the Bean family last spring as part of their commitments to the City. The public will enjoy access to riverside trails and fishing, and may access the greenway from the Florence Fields complex, thanks to a public right of way across a thin strip of the farmland.

"This collaborative effort adds one mile to the Mill River Greenway, protects the largest remaining unprotected farmland outside of the meadows, adds desperately needed recreation opportunities at Florence Fields, and provides additional community gardens. In terms of meeting agriculture, open space and recreation needs, it doesn't get any better than this," said Wayne Feiden, Northampton's Director of Planning and Development.

This series of transactions leaves TPL holding only the APR-protected farmland, which it must sell to a farmer or farming organization. In September, TPL signed a sale agreement with the local non-profit Grow Food Northampton (GFN) to purchase up to all four of the assessor's parcels that make up the 121-acre APR. GFN's plan is to lease the land to organic farmers and gardeners who will grow food for local consumption. GFN has raised $554,000 in pledges, grants, and donations, out of a total campaign budget of $670,500, leaving it well positioned to purchase at least three parcels, and with strong potential to purchase all four parcels at a cost of $585,000. Until December 31st, all donations to Grow Food Northampton up to $10,000 will be matched 2:1 by Easthampton Savings Bank and an anonymous individual.

"A year ago, we couldn't have imagined a better outcome for this land," said Lilly Lombard of Grow Food Northampton. "I am honored to have worked with so many dedicated individuals and agencies in the preservation of this precious resource."

The lands have roots in history too. Sojourner Truth, then a member of the local Northampton Association of Education and Industry, farmed the land in the 19th century. The City is planning to install interpretive signs and considering nominating the property to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped to protect more than 2.8 million acres nationwide, including nearly 13,000 acres in Massachusetts. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve its land for people mission.

The City of Northampton's open space objectives, identified in its Open Space, Recreation and MultiUse Trail Plan, include permanently preserving prime farmland and a viable farming economy, preserving a greenway along the Mill River from Leeds to Downtown Northampton, meeting the recreation needs of the community, and preserving sensitive land from inappropriate development that will damage the environment and Northampton's tax base. Visit www.NorthamptonMA.gov/opd/

Grow Food Northampton's mission is to promote food security by advancing sustainable agriculture in the Northampton, Massachusetts area. Learn more about the Northampton Community Farm: growfoodnorthampton.com