Massachusetts' Healey-Driscoll Administration allocates over $4.7 million in Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) funding.
Agriculture Environment Government Grants

Massachusetts’ Investment in Farmland Conservation

The Healey-Driscoll Administration has announced a substantial investment of over $4.7 million in Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) funding. The funding will benefit 12 farms across Massachusetts, securing the future of farming in the Commonwealth while safeguarding the environment.

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) has been at the forefront of addressing some of the most pressing challenges related to land access, food security, and environmental protection. Through its APR program, MDAR purchases land from local farmers to permanently protect their agricultural usage, mitigating the threats posed by rising land costs and ensuring the continuity of agricultural practices.

For Governor Maura Healey, supporting local farms resonates deeply: “For generations, Massachusetts farms have been a crucial part of the fabric of our rural communities, and we need to ensure that they remain prosperous for generations to come.” Recognizing the menace posed by escalating land costs, the APR Program offers a viable solution by safeguarding farmland and guaranteeing agricultural utilization.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll emphasizes the role of farmers as stewards of the land, reflecting the critical connection between agricultural practices and the preservation of open landscapes. “They work to preserve and protect the open and working landscape of hundreds of thousands of acres across Massachusetts, which in turn contributes to the overall health and well-being of everyone in the state,” she affirms. The APR Program aligns with these values, incentivizing farmers to persist in their efforts despite growing challenges.

In a world grappling with climate change and its far-reaching consequences, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper underscores the timely significance of farmland protection. “As we continue to respond to the impacts of climate change, it is now more important than ever to protect our valuable farmland and ensure the resilience of our agricultural economy and food security,” she states. In its more than four-decade history, the APR program has emerged as a cornerstone of these efforts.

Massachusetts’ commitment to farmland preservation has not gone unnoticed. The recently unveiled Resilient Lands Initiative sets ambitious goals to protect more than twice the amount of farmland that has already been conserved by 2050. This recognition of the critical importance of preserving agricultural land speaks to the state’s dedication to ensuring sustainable food production and maintaining its distinctive rural landscape.

Despite its relatively small size, Massachusetts ranks third in the nation for the percentage of farmland projected to be lost by 2040, according to the American Farmland Trust. Factors such as high farmland and home values and an aging farming demographic have contributed to this alarming statistic. Furthermore, the ever-looming threat of climate change exacerbates these challenges, resulting in adverse weather events that affect crop yields. The need to act becomes even more apparent in light of recent weather-related losses across the state.

MDAR Commissioner Ashley Randle highlights the multifaceted risks that today’s farmers face. “Whether it’s the high cost of land, extreme weather events, increased input costs, an aging population, or a tough labor market, there is no shortage of issues that pose a significant risk to the viability and sustainability of farming in the Commonwealth,” she notes. The APR program steps up to counter these challenges by securing farmland for agricultural purposes and providing tangible support to farmers.

The APR projects supported in Fiscal Year 2023 highlight the diversity and importance of agricultural endeavors across Massachusetts. The funding allocation includes several notable projects:

  • Community Harvest Project Inc., Harvard: A 70-acre APR initiative that safeguards an apple and peach orchard, contributing to local food production and conservation efforts.
  • North Plain Farm, Great Barrington: A 75-acre property primarily used for organic farming, supporting local establishments and restaurants while preserving prime farmland.
  • Hartsbrook Farm, Hadley: This 68-acre APR safeguards a longstanding dairy operation, ensuring the continuation of dairy farming in the region.
  • MacKenzie Farm, New Marlborough: A 56-acre APR endeavor that promotes local agricultural activity, with the farmer growing hay for livestock and local sale.
  • Fairfields Dairy Farm, Williamstown: Protecting a 17-acre parcel currently utilized for corn production, helping to maintain the operation of Fairfields Dairy.
  • Shadi-Oak Farm, West Bridgewater: Preserving a 69-acre property with a rich history of active farming, now dedicated to raising beef cattle and producing hay.
  • Handrich Farm, Hadley: Safeguarding a 40-acre property engaged in vegetable rotation and hay production, contributing to the area’s agricultural landscape.
  • Town Line Dairy Farm, Upton: Protecting a 28-acre APR for rotational grazing and vegetable production addresses farmland vulnerability.
  • Balderdash Cellars, Richmond: Ensuring the continuation of a vineyard and winery operation on a 12.43-acre parcel, maintaining agricultural heritage.
  • Fisk Farm, South Deerfield: A 7.4-acre APR with nationally significant agricultural soils, playing a role in a larger successful APR block.
  • The Atherton Farm, Buckland: Hosting hay and corn silage operations, supporting a nearby dairy farm, and offering a farmstand for vegetable marketing.
  • Gralinski Farm, Hadley: Protecting a 10+ acre farm well-suited for agricultural use, furthering the agricultural landscape of Hadley.

These projects underscore the diversity of agricultural efforts across the Commonwealth and the broad range of benefits that the APR program brings to farmers and the broader community. By offering financial support in exchange for permanent land use restrictions, the program creates a mutually beneficial partnership that safeguards land, supports farmers, and contributes to preserving local agricultural heritage.

The Healey-Driscoll Administration’s investment of over $4.7 million in APR funding reflects a steadfast commitment to preserving Massachusetts’ rich agricultural legacy. The program’s successes over its four-decade history have demonstrated the substantial impact of farmland conservation on food security, environmental resilience, and the overall well-being of the state’s residents. The APR program protects farmland by addressing challenges such as rising land costs, aging farming demographics, and the threats posed by climate change. It cultivates a brighter, more sustainable future for the Commonwealth.

Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash 

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