The Trustees of Reservations is touting big news about Chestnut Hill Farm. The farm will be growing by almost 30%.
The expansion was made possible through the generosity of donors. Importantly, it also required the generosity of the Beals family (again), who sold the land at a “significantly reduced cost”.
The non-profit has purchased 39 acres abutting the property. (That’s in addition to the 131 acres gifted to the Trustees by the same family in 2010.) According to the announcement, the investment will help them offer more programs.
TTOR also plans to build a facility for community gathering and programs. It’s described as an outdoor structure including a covered space.
In an email, a rep summed up:
As you know from past coverage, the farm has grown over the last few years to be a vibrant community hub, featuring a 200-member CSA program, a new livestock/Meat CSA program, community events including farm dinners and seasonal festivals, and more. The additional land also opens up more recreational opportunities for visitors and community members, linking the farm trails to a broader trail network. In addition to the expanded acreage, The Trustees are also planning to build new structure on the property that will provide expanded engagement space for programs and events and more visitor amenities like shelter and restrooms.
Protecting the open space in town has clearly been a passion of the Beals family which also contributed the 56 acre Beals Preserve to Southborough Open Land Foundation in 2009.*
The land just sold by the family is described as:
across the street from the current farm operation and contains nearly six acres of USDA-defined prime agricultural soil, along with hayfields and woodland habitat.
As for the farm across the street it will serve to enhance, here are some of my favorite pictures from its blog, highlighting the vista over the past year. (Click to enlarge)
Here is the full announcement from TTOR with more details:
The Trustees Announce Acquisition of 39 Additional Acres at Chestnut Hill Farm in Southborough, MA and Plans to Create a New Community Gathering Space
January 8, 2017—The Trustees is pleased to announce it has acquired, with the generous support of the owners and many others, 39 acres of agricultural land adjacent to its Chestnut Hill Farm property in Southborough. The land includes the remaining one-third of the original property owned by the Beals family who gifted 131 acres at the heart of the farm to The Trustees in 2010. Before that, the family already protected, with widespread support from the Southborough community, portions of the property through donations of land and conservation restrictions.
Over the past two years, the Trustees has returned agricultural activities to Chestnut Hill Farm, making it once-again a working, community farm featuring a 200-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, year-round events, and a new Livestock program. Since 2015, The Trustees have been able to raise more than $1 million in donations from several foundations and individual donors to fund many improvements at the farm, including the recent purchase of the additional acreage at a significantly reduced cost. The Beals family generously agreed to the reduction in the sale price as a donation, making the purchase possible. The funds raised will enable The Trustees to move forward with several additional visitor and site improvements, including plans for a new, outdoor structure featuring a covered community gathering space for educational programs.
“We are so grateful to the generosity of our donors, including the Beals family themselves, in helping us to make this all possible,” says Joanna Ballantine, Vice President of The Trustees West Region. “This new agricultural acreage, planned visitor structure, and expanded public access to recreational trails will enable us to enhance and continue to share the beauty and bounty of this special farm with more community members and for all future generations.”
The newly protected parcel is located across the street from the current farm operation and contains nearly six acres of USDA-defined prime agricultural soil, along with hayfields and woodland habitat.
“With this additional land, we will be now be able to reconnect the farm’s original parcels and significantly increase our food production capabilities while also providing more outdoor space for our visitors to enjoy,” adds DA Hayden, General Manager for The Trustees’ Charles River Valley properties which includes Chestnut Hill Farm. “We have been so encouraged by the community’s excitement in the farm. It has become a unique hub for community members to share their mutual love of local food and farming through the CSA as well as our popular farm dinners and events. We are excited to grow and further expand our offerings here.”
Desiree Robertson-DuBois, Chestnut Hill’s Farm Manager, was hired by The Trustees in 2015 to run and farm the property. Living on the property with her three children and husband Jesse Robertson-DuBois, a Trustees Livestock Manager, she has, in just two short years, grown the farming operation from two to 11 acres in support of the CSA vegetable program that has also expanded from 50 to 200 shareholders. The Trustees rotate their grass-fed cattle through pastures at their area farms, a new practice at Chestnut Hill Farm as of this year, before the meat is sold through the organization’s popular Meat CSA program and at other farm stores.
“The newly acquired land is ideal for growing crops and will also offer important, expanded grassland for our grazing livestock,” says DuBois. “We are equally thrilled about building a new public structure on the property with much needed amenities like restrooms and an interpretive, educational area where our visitors can learn more about the history of the farm and gather for our increasingly popular events and programs,” she added.
Chestnut Hill Farm was purchased by Elaine and Philip Beals in 1966 to protect its scenic woodlands, rolling hills, and productive farmlands from development. In the early 1990s, the family began formally protecting portions of the property by donating pieces of land, as well as the development rights, to local conservation groups. In 2006, though a special town meeting, over 500 registered Southborough voters overwhelmingly voted to purchase a conservation restriction on the remaining unprotected portions of the farm, which included public access through the fields along designated trails. In April 2010, the Beals family generously gifted 131 acres, representing two thirds of the farm, to The Trustees with the hope that it would return to food production and secure important meadowland habitat for ground-nesting and other birds. The property also features 2.5 miles of walking trails, open to the public daily, sunrise to sunset.
In its 125+ year history as the world’s first and Massachusetts’ largest conservation and preservation nonprofit and one of the largest owners of farmland in the state, The Trustees has protected over 12,000 acres of farmland in Massachusetts. Today, the nonprofit cares for over 2,000 acres of agricultural land and seven working farms. Using sustainable farming practices to ensure the preservation of landscapes and support healthy habitats and ecosystems on its properties, The Trustees also works to promote individual health of its livestock, including cattle, pigs, chickens, and lambs, raising them with care in a variety of open, natural settings at Chestnut Hill Farm in Southborough, Moose Hill Farm in Sharon, Powisset Farm in Dover, Weir River Farm in Hingham, and The FARM Institute in Edgartown.
Founded by landscape architect Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees has, for more than 125 years, been a catalyst for important ideas, endeavors, and progress in Massachusetts. As a steward of distinctive and dynamic places of both historic and cultural value, The Trustees is the nation’s first preservation and conservation organization, and its landscapes and landmarks continue to inspire discussion, innovation, and action today as they did in the past. We are a nonprofit supported by members, friends and donors and our more than 115 sites are destinations for residents, members, and visitors alike, welcoming millions of guests annually. www.thetrustees.org.
*The family’s efforts to protect the land in that area began in the 50s and 60s, when purchased by Philip and Elaine Beals. Elaine passed away in 2016, predeceased by Philip in 2008. (To read more about their legacies, click the following links: Elaine Beals and Philip Beals.)
Updated (1/9/18 1:45 pm): I followed up to get a map outlining the new parcel.