Back in 2015, Mount Grace held a workshop entitled “Options for the Future of Your Land” at Wendell’s Diemand Farm. Bill and Laurel Facey of Sugarbush Farm—which Mount Grace was helping to conserve—invited dozens of people from around the Mormon Hollow neighborhood to attend the workshop. They wanted to inspire their neighbors to consider protecting their land too, so that they could help keep the broader landscape conserved and keep farming alive in their community.
What started as a meeting of neighbors in a barn quickly became a multi-landowner, landscape-scale conservation project involving 10 neighbors in the towns of Wendell and Montague. Mount Grace, along with the Towns, and the Department of Fish & Game, applied for and were awarded an $800,000 grant to help protect more than 700 acres of incredible working landscapes as part of our Mormon Hollow Working Lands Corridor Project.
Early on, multiple neighbors suggested that Mount Grace speak with farmer Willie Hunting, whose 81-acre property is located on Montague’s eastern boundary with Wendell, and which connects thousands of acres of already protected state forest land in the two towns. Willie Hunting, the 6th generation of his family on this land, raises hay and goats, as well as sustainably managed timber. The property is home to diverse wildlife, pristine brooks, scenic pastures and upland forests, and an old cellar hole—a reminder of the generations of inhabitants on this land. This land also has significance to Native American tribes and was recommended for permanent protection by the Massachusetts Historical Commission.
When Willie inherited this land he also inherited numerous farm dumps, which needed to be removed prior to the project closing. This past fall and winter, countless energetic volunteers, led by local attorney and retired Department of Fish & Game Land Agent, Sam Lovejoy, cleaned up the property over a dozen volunteer clean up days. Sam also donated countless hours of time to support Willie every step of the way over the last year.
One final cleanup day will be needed this spring—contact Mount Grace's MassLIFT AmeriCorps team to learn how you can help!
Now, in 2017, the 6th-generation Hunting Farm in Montague is permanently protected thanks to the help of Mount Grace, the Town of Montague, the Massachusetts Landscape Partnership Program grant, and innumerable friends and community members.