Thanks to a Massachusetts Landscape Partnership Grant, Mount Grace will be working to protect over 700 acres through a partnership that will help a group of neighbors permanently protect their farms and homesteads in the hills where Wendell and Montague meet.
The Mormon Hollow Working Lands Corridor Project began when Bill Facey of Sugarbush Farm came to Mount Grace for help protecting his farm, where Bill and Laurel Facey raise and sell grass-fed beef and maple syrup. Working with the trust, Bill organized a meeting of neighbors to learn about options for protecting their land. That 2015 meeting inspired a group of local farmers to conserve their land together.
This hilly region along the border of the two towns has a rich Native American history and later supported mills and small farms after colonial settlement. Today, with the regrowth of forests and the development pressure placed on farm fields, these working landscapes have been identified as critical to protect to preserve the towns’ rural heritage and support the local economy.
Smaller, diversified farms raising and producing hay, timber, vegetables, and some livestock have joined together for the project, including Skip and Marsha Smith’s Stoney Hollow Farm in Montague, a fifth generation farm; Dan and Nina Keller’s 72-acre farmstead in Wendell; and the sixth-generation Hunting Farm in Montague. Other properties to be protected include Wendell’s historic Poor Farm, the former Herrick farmstead, and land that will be added to the Department of Fish & Game’s 1,500 acre Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area.
The New England National Scenic Trail, the Robert Frost Trail, and miles of informal local trails course through the hilly terrain, leading hikers and enthusiasts to cherished destinations like Mormon Hollow Ledges, Fiske Pond Conservation Area, and Jerusalem Hill Summit. “This project creates corridors of protected land knitting together the Montague Plains and the Wendell State Forest,” says Leigh Youngblood “that’s good for hikers, and great for the enormous variety of species that live in the woods, wetlands, and fields we’re helping to conserve.”