The Role of Farmland in Grafton
It is well recognized that farmers are good land stewards. It is not so well recognized how important farming is for the GLT mission. Here in Grafton there is new interest in supporting existing farmers and returning open space to agriculture. This energy and focus on agriculture will help us make progress in our shared goal of preserving open space.
The national farming statistics are frightening - over one million acres of American farmland are lost to development each year. That is two acres every minute. Grafton is an obvious target, with its close proximity to the expanding horizons of both Boston and Worcester. This encroaching development, along with increases in fuel, fertilizer, and labor costs, make the agriculture business a tough proposition.
Local farmland is a major asset to the entire community, and its loss has dramatic consequences. Farms often consist of fields, meadows, woods, streams, and ponds which all provide an essential habitat for wildlife. The GLT, the Town, and other organizations can help purchase agricultural land before they go to development. But for how long, how many times, and to what degree can we maintain this strategy? We have been fortunate to leverage both private and public funds for the purchase of properties like Pell Farm. This property was recently acquired by the Town of Grafton with the help of the GLT and the Trust for Public Land. Would the citizens of Grafton support another major acquisition in the current economic climate? The risk of losing any open space to development is permanent, so we must try to preempt this scenario.
One of the best ways to help support local farmers is to “buy local” foods. Visit the wonderful farm stands and properties in and around Grafton, and make them your first choice for buying fresh produce. The recent establishment of the Grafton Farmers Market will also help in this mission. Houlden Farms of North Grafton and other local producers will be attending the Grafton Farmers Market every Thursday from 2-6:30PM on the Common during the growing season. The Grafton Land Trust will play its part by hosting the Non-Profit Tent on July 9th and “Land Preservation Day” on August 13th. Visit the market, buy some local produce, and think of it as an opportunity to eat well while supporting local land preservation.
Another GLT initiative underway is to rethink the use of our open space inventory, and return open space to agriculture. Currently, one property is eminently suitable for agriculture—Potter Hill Meadows. It has about 25 acres of open meadows that were in agricultural use—corn and hay—by the late Wesley Elvidge until about 10 years ago. We are actively looking for a farmer who could establish a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project and put these fields into production. The Pell Farm is another great candidate for farming. In supporting agricultural production on our land, we have the unique opportunity to pass along a real benefit to the community.
As members of the GLT we are tasked with an important mission—to permanently preserve open space in Grafton. If you look at our inventory of properties (www.graftonland.org) you will see many amazing properties that will be here forever – not just a couple years, or a lifetime, or even for generations. It is forever! This is an exciting mission and the support of agriculture will help.