Echodale Farm Conservation Completed (MA)
Easthampton, MA, 7/10/2008: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Pascommuck Conservation Trust (PCT), along with an array of local and state officials, will gather at Echodale Farm on Sunday in the culmination of a two-year effort to permanently protect the land for agricultural use. The farm, encompassing 165 acres of active agricultural and forest land on Park Hill Road, is Easthampton’s largest farm. Sunday’s event will celebrate the placement of an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) over 140 acres, meaning that they will never be developed. The Town of Easthampton now owns an additional 24 acres on the site, also under permanent protection.
Clem Clay, Director of TPL’s Connecticut River Program, said, “Echodale is a beautiful and productive farm, with stunning views of Mt. Tom across the fields. As farmland is disappearing up and down the Connecticut River Valley, it’s a great accomplishment that this treasured community resource will always be there. We are grateful for the outpouring of support from the city, the state, and private individuals, who all made this success possible.”
Mayor Michael Tautznik said, “Our success in the ongoing preservation efforts on Park Hill has been possible because of the direct involvement of our non-profit partners and the Commonwealth’s APR Program. We thank them for their support of our efforts.”
Funding for the $2.85 million project, which is now officially complete, came from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, using grants from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services’ (NRCS) Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), and the state’s agricultural protection program. The Massachusetts congressional delegation strongly supports funding for the FRPP program. Additional funding was provided by the City of Easthampton, the Self-Help Program of the Massachusetts Division of Conservation Service, many individual donors, and the sale of the restricted farm.
“The long term preservation of agricultural activity in our Commonwealth depends in large part on the availability and affordability of agricultural land,” said Douglas Petersen, the state’s Agriculture Commissioner. “Furthermore, we’re fortunate to have the continued support and partnerships, like that with TPL, that allow our continued success on behalf of the Massachusetts agricultural industry, especially as we witness greater interest and demand for local agricultural production than many have ever seen.”
“This accomplishment truly warrants a celebration,” said U.S. Congressman John Olver. “I am very pleased that Echodale Farm, the largest farm in Easthampton, will be permanently protected for agricultural use. The protection of this parcel ensures that the beautiful land, vistas and history of the Farm will be preserved for generations to come.”
“The preservation of Echodale Farm highlights the power of partnershipsand collaboration. We’re pleased to work with our state and local partners through the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program to leverage our resources to protect these 140 acres of farmland,” said Christine S. Clarke, State Conservationist for NRCS in Massachusetts. “This is a resource that the citizens of Easthampton and surrounding communities will enjoy for generations to come.”
TPL bought the 165-acre farm in 2006 to protect the property from residential development and to keep the valuable agricultural soils in production. The new owner of the 140 acres and a farmhouse and barns on a one-acre parcel is Echodale Farm, LLC, owned and managed by Gail M. Flood and Rodney A. Britt. They plan to operate Echodale as a family-run farm featuring heritage livestock breeds and beekeeping, as well as the retail sale of vegetables and flowers grown on the premises. The couple will open the farm to the project’s partners and donors on Sunday to commemorate the farm’s new status as permanently preserved land.
New owner, Rodney Britt, said, “Gail and I feel honored and delighted to be part of the protection of Echodale Farm. We are excited to begin our involvement with the Easthampton farming community.”
Permanently protecting the 165-acre farm has created a 400- acre block of land that will forever be preserved as open space and agricultural land. Adjoining farms were protected in the late 1990’s with help from PCT, the Valley Land Fund, the City of Easthampton, and the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program. The goals of the Echodale Farm conservation effort were to ensure that Echodale remained an active farm, provide opportunities for the public to access the scenic Park Hill area, and to protect habitat for threatened and endangered plants and animals along Bassett Brook. Walking trails are planned for the City-owned portions of the property and along a portion of the farm’s perimeter.
John Bator, the President of Pascommuck Conservation Trust, said, “Saving Echodale Farm from development was a classic example of individuals, businesses, various organizations, the city, and the state working together to preserve our precious agricultural heritage. The Pascommuck Conservation Trust expresses our sincere gratitude to the Trust for Public Land in spearheading this successful campaign, and to everyone who helped contribute their time and/or treasures toward what initially seemed a mission impossible. It was indeed a noble adventure in good stewardship of our earthly resources. We are proud – and we are confident that the new owners will enable Echodale to once more prosper and shine!”
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 two million acres nationwide, including nearly 12,000 acres in Massachusetts.
The Pascommuck Conservation Trust is a non-profit, charitable organization, formed in 1982, which protects important land and other natural resources in Easthampton for the public benefit. The Trust controls 16 properties in Easthampton, comprising approximately 190 acres which are available for public access. The Trust has no paid staff and therefore relies upon volunteers to carry out its mission. For more information visit www.pctland.org