Farm conservation is a key part of Mount Grace’s overall strategy for land protection. Protecting a farm not only saves open space, but also keeps local jobs and income in the rural economy. Since 1986, Mount Grace has worked to protect more than two dozen farms around the North Quabbin region.
Mount Grace has always taken an active role in conserving New England farms, including:
- Red Apple Farm in Phillipston
- Sunset View Farm in Winchendon
- Bascom Hollow Farm in Gill
- The Farm School in Orange
- Wingate Farm in Hinsdale, NH
- Bree-Z-Knoll Farm in Leyden
Projects like these support local farmers, help keep our food locally grown, and help the next generation of farmers gain access to land.
If you are interested in exploring options to protect your farm, please contact Rocio Lalanda at 978-248-2055 x29 or lalanda@. mountgrace.org
In addition to conserving farmland, Mount Grace is on the forefront of exploring new tools to help make farming viable. Beyond farming itself being hard work, we know there are extra financial challenges to farmland ownership and access. Farmland is expensive, and farmers – ones already on the land, and ones looking to try their hand at farming – are often priced out. Protecting the land can be a critical first step, but it doesn’t always guarantee the land itself will be continuously farmed, or that a future farmer could afford it. Mount Grace strives to do farm projects that are good for the land, the farmer, the longevity of the farming operation, and the local community.
Under the “whole farm forever” approach, the land trust and farmers share the ownership of the farm. The farmers own the farmhouse, barns, greenhouses, and other buildings while the land trust owns the land (the protected farmland and the land under the building) and leases it out to the farmers in the form of 99-year leases. As a result, future generations of farmers will have access to all the elements they need – fields, barns, greenhouses, and housing.
Mount Grace’s first “whole farm forever” project was Red Fire Farm in Montague. Sarah and Ryan Voiland grow organic fruits and vegetables on their already-protected farmland by the Connecticut River, and worked with Mount Grace to develop a 99-year ground lease as part of their long-term planning for the viability of their farm.
“This arrangement allows us as two first-generation farmers—with no farmland to inherit—to own and manage a successful organic farming business in a place where farmland is some of the most expensive in the country.” Ryan Voiland, co-owner of Red Fire Farm with Sarah Voiland
To learn more about Mount Grace’s work with Red Fire Farm, visit:
Since Red Fire Farm, Mount Grace has strategically conserved other farms using another tool—the Option to Purchase at Agricultural Value (OPAV). This tool ensures the land and its buildings are sold to farmers at an agricultural value. The goal is to keep the land in the hands of farmers forever.
It is not enough to save the farm; we need to look at the entire food system. There are significant gaps in affordable access to high quality, locally sourced organic produce and meats, paired with a decline in profitability and sales for local farmers. For these reasons, Mount Grace also works to improve the local food system by creating and helping facilitate specific programs to strengthen and create collaborations within our local food system.
Mount Grace founded and coordinates the Greater Quabbin Food Alliance. This informal network works together to address the food system challenges in our communities—including farmland conservation, access to healthy, local food, support of the local agricultural economy, food waste reduction and composting, and food systems education.
In 2013, a local member-owned food cooperative approached Mount Grace. They had outgrown their space, and wanted to expand, but needed help. Seeing the connection to our work to protect farms and the relationships between the co-op and local farmers, Mount Grace purchased a building in downtown Orange to house the growing food cooperative. The store, Quabbin Harvest, provides healthy food at affordable prices, builds community, and directly supports local agriculture.