Yellow Stonehouse Farm Receives Preservation Restriction

By Amy Porter
Posted on May 23, 2021 in The Westfield News

WESTFIELD – Following City Council approval May 20, the Yellow Stonehouse Farm’s 14 acres of farmland is on its way to being preserved for agricultural use in perpetuity.

The yellow stone house that inspired the Yellow Stonehouse Farm. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS

The council unanimously approved an appropriation of $50,000 from the Community Preservation Open Space Account and $19,000 from the Open Space reserved balance to provide the city’s portion — 20 percent – of a state Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) on the farm on Root Road. The state is putting in 80 percent to preserve the farmland in perpetuity.

“What we’re trying to do is ensure that the land is only going to be available for agricultural use. We want to make sure it doesn’t get developed. We’re growing organic vegetables and feeding 200 families. We also have walking trails, school groups, and are hosting a wedding this summer. I like to think of it as a community resource,” said Constance Adams, Yellow Stonehouse Farm owner, at the Legislative & Ordinance committee meeting on May 19.

Adams said the farm would continue to pay taxes as 61A agricultural property. “We still own the property, we sold the development rights,” she said.

Barbara Hopson, state representative for the APR, explained that 61A is a temporary lien on property to give farmers or forested land a tax break. “The difference is Chapter 61A is temporary. An individual can withdraw at any point for development. The APR program puts a restriction in perpetuity so that it will never be developed,” she said.

Yellow Stonehouse Farm on Root Road. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Hopson explained that the overall value of the restriction is $295,000, the difference between the fair market value ($380,000) and agricultural value ($85,000) of the land. The Commonwealth will pay $236,000 of it, and the city pays the balance, plus survey and legal fees and half of the closing costs. “It is important to note that it’s permanently restricted, and will always go forward as a farm. It can be sold at the agricultural value, and always must be farmed.”

Hopson said one of the big benefits of the program is if there’s a young farmer out there who wants to buy agricultural land, instead of competing with developers, they can buy this land which has been preserved for farming at the agricultural land value. She said going forward, the base price will be $85,000, but there will be appreciation built in. The agricultural restriction will also remain on the property with future farmers.

“The ultimate goal of the program is that it goes to a farmer at an affordable price, driven by the market, to go forward with the property based on that base price, and it will appreciate over time,” Hopson said, adding that the program has said no to non-farmer buyers. She said the CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) operation at Yellow Stonehouse Farm increases its viability in the APR going forward, and is why it scored so high in their program.

At the Council meeting, At-large Councilor Dave Flaherty spoke in support of the program. “If you’ve never been to this farm, you should all go out there. The land is beautiful. They want to protect it and keep it as farmland for many years to come,” he said.

At-large Councilor Kristen Mello agreed and said the owners have done a tremendous amount of outreach. “I will also be supporting this. This is exactly what the community has been asking for, to keep open space,” Mello said before the council’s unanimous vote to support the funding for the restriction.

Welcome to Farming Matters

PhotoPad Image Editor PrintingHello and welcome to Farming Matters.  I am Connie Adams, one of the farmers along with my husband John at Yellow Stonehouse Farm on Root Rd in Westfield, near the Southampton town line.  John and I have been growing vegetables, herbs and flowers for shareholders of the farm CSA for five years.

CSA’s – aka Community Supported Agriculture – are a way for farms to sell vegetables directly to local consumers, a model developed in Great Barrington, MA in the 1980’s. The CSA model is now popular throughout the USA as a way for people to connect with farms, know where their food comes from and how it is grown.

CSA’s involve a farmer who grows enough vegetables to amply meet the needs of the number of shares sold prior to the season, usually limited to a fixed number of members who pick-up their allotment of local produce throughout the growing season from June 8th till October 22nd.  The farmer/shareholder arrangement provides the farmer with a predictable number of customers for planning purposes, plus a dependable revenue stream, in exchange for the farm’s commitment to provide fresh, varied, abundant and delicious produce.

We decided to start the CSA as way to continue the farm as an agricultural enterprise!  It’s been a farm since the early 1800’s, operated as a dairy until the 1990’s, and is a beautiful property designated as a Natural Heritage Agricultural and Endangered Species Landscape.
We think farms are important to maintain open space, protect native plants, animals and insects and most importantly to provide a local source of food.  Our goal is to develop the farm as a successful enterprise that continues into the future.

The purpose of this column is to talk about Farming Matters – because farming and where our food comes from, matters to all of us.  I’ll write about what’s going on at the farm, vegetables & recipes, health benefits of organic herbs & vegetables, wildlife, organic pest & weed control, flowers & herbs – you get the idea.

At this time of the year we are organizing planting plans and starting seeds.  One of the reasons we sell CSA memberships prior to the season, is to allow us to plan and organize how much to plant.  We then order seeds to provide shareholders with a variety of organic vegetables from June through October.  We start most crops as seedlings rather than sowing directly into the fields to ensure reliable seed germination and so we can plant the seedlings when they are larger to better compete with weeds. This is important as we are USDA certified organic and don’t use any herbicides or pesticides.

Spring is coming soon and we are looking forward to eating fresh vegetables from our fields.  We can’t wait for the asparagus, lettuce, pea’s, & radishes!  We still have a few CSA shares left, preferably for local residents.  If you are interested, please go to our website or call us at the farm 413-562-2164.