Land Trusts Protecting Valley Farmland
MA State and Federal Programs
Local Farm Support Organizations
The Pioneer Valley contains some of the best farmland in Massachusetts. The Forever Farmland sign project aims to publicly recognize permanently protected farmland and honor landowners who have chosen to conserve their farms.
The Kestrel Trust, a regional land trust, initiated the Forever Farmland Initiative in cooperation with the town of Hadley, which leads the state in farmland conservation. Since then the sign idea has caught on. Other towns and land trusts throughout the Valley are starting to recognize their protected farmland too!
Preserved Farmland is permanently protected by an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) or an agricultural Conservation Restriction (CR). These are legally binding restrictions monitored and enforced by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, a town conservation commission, and/or a land trust. Farmland owners voluntarily enter into these agreements by selling the APR for a negotiated price based on appraised value of the land.
The scenic beauty and rural character of the Pioneer Valley is rooted in our abundant agricultural landscape. Freshly plowed fields bordered by lush green hillsides define our sense of place. The delicious local produce available at farmers markets and roadside stands allow Valley residents to become part of the landscape. However, farmland is more than just nutritionally and aesthetically important. With $7.3 million in worker wages, and $35 million in sales, including $1.6 million in direct-to-consumer-sales, the financial contribution agriculture makes to Hampshire County is substantial.
The Good News: More than 725 farms and a total land area of over 61,855 acres have been preserved by the APR program in Massachusetts. A new report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that Massachusetts agriculture expanded from 2002 to 2007, growing by 27 percent both in crop and livestock sales and in the total number of farms.
The Bad News: According to Massachusetts Audubon Society's 2009 report Losing Ground, Massachusetts loses 7 acres of agricultural land per day to development. Valley farmland is particularly at risk of being converted to sprawling housing subdivisions.
Dozens of organizations have had a role in permanently protecting farms in the Valley. Check out these links (to the left) to get to know the land trusts, the Massachusetts APR program, and organizations working to support farmland and farmers. Each of these programs and organizations plays a critical part in sustaining our vibrant agricultural tradition. We encourage all Pioneer Valley residents to get involved in supporting local agriculture to preserve the land for future farmers, and to sustain local food security for future generations.
Thanks to the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition for funding this project.