Critical 35-Acre Howe Farm on Westport River Protected with Agricultural Preservation Restriction

Contact Information

Chris Detwiller
Westport Community Conservation Specialist
The Trustees of Reservations
Phone: 508.636.7501
Email: cdetwiller@ttor.org

Peggy Stevens
Executive Director
Westport Land Conservation Trust
Phone: 508.636.7043
Email: pstevens@westportlandtrust.org

Chris Chisholm
APR Regional Planner
Department of Agricultural Resources
Phone: 617.626.1788
Email: chris.chisholm@state.ma.us

WESTPORT, MA – February 16, 2012 – The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees), Westport Land Conservation Trust (Land Trust), and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) are delighted to announce the protection of the 35-acre Howe Farm, located at Hix Bridge and Horseneck Roads in Westport. MDAR acquired an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) from the family, ensuring the farm’s permanent protection and bringing to more than 1,900 the number of acres protected by Agricultural Preservation Restrictions in Westport. It also brings the Slocum’s River to Westport River Greenway one step closer to completion.

The scenic Howe Farm is set amidst a 475-acre block of protected farmland, including the protected vineyards of the Westport Rivers Winery. The property has beautiful frontage on the East Branch of the Westport River and features 15 acres of agricultural soils currently growing Macomber turnips, several varieties of squash, blueberries and hay. The farm fields can be appreciated from both Hix Bridge and Horseneck Roads as well as from the Westport River.

“The Trustees believe that Massachusetts’ farms are vital to the health and sustainability of our communities. This joint effort between The Trustees, Westport Land Conservation Trust and the Department of Agricultural Resources to protect the Howe Farm is one example of how public and private community partnerships can achieve our shared vision of supporting agriculture and working lands across the Commonwealth,” said Andy Kendall, President of The Trustees of Reservations.

The Howe family contributed to the protection of the farm by agreeing to sell the APR at less than its appraised value (called a “bargain sale”). They are also thrilled knowing that the property will continue to support agriculture as it has for generations. “There was no doubt we wanted to keep the property in agriculture and protect it from development,” said Ed Howe, Farm Manager and one of four Howe siblings that own the property. “It was just a question of whether we could afford to make it happen. Our partnership with The Trustees, the Land Trust and the State has now made that dream a reality.”

The 35-acre farm adds to over 1,900 acres of Westport farmland already protected with APRs in Westport, an important milestone in efforts to preserve the important agriculture and agricultural heritage in the town. APRs are acquired and held by the Department of Agricultural Resources, often with support from The Trustees, the Land Trust, and the Town of Westport. “We are truly fortunate that farming has remained an important component of community characteristics, and the social and economic fabric of the Town of Westport”, said Scott Soares, Commissioner of the Department of Agricultural Resources. “We thank the Trustees and the Land Trust for their strong partnership in this important project and commend the Howe family for their commitment and contribution to perpetual protection of agriculture in their community”.

Peggy Stevens, Executive Director of the Land Trust, noted, “Protecting farmland contributes to the overall character of the Town, and in this case also brings the Slocum’s River to Westport River Greenway one step closer to completion.” The Greenway is a collaborative project between private and public organizations to create a continuous 6-mile expanse of protected land extending from river to river, which currently includes the Slocum’s River Reserve, Dartmoor Farm Wildlife Management Area, and several protected privately owned farms, fields and woodlands.

More about the Partnership between the Westport Land Conservation Trust & Trustees of Reservations
Development pressure on the Buzzards Bay watershed is among the most intense in Massachusetts, putting our farms, forests and open spaces increasingly at risk. In 2001, The Westport Land Conservation Trust and The Trustees of Reservations joined forces and committed to a goal of significantly increasing the pace of local conservation work in Westport. Over the past ten years, they have worked with landowners and partnered with the Town, Commonwealth and other land conservation organizations to protect over 2,000 acres of open space in Westport.

More about The Trustees of Reservations
The Trustees of Reservations is the nation’s oldest statewide land conservation organization, founded by open space visionary Charles Eliot in 1891 to “hold in trust” and care for properties of scenic, cultural and natural significance. Supported by members, donors and thousands of volunteers, The Trustees own and manage 106 spectacular “reservations” located on more than 26,000 acres in 75 communities throughout Massachusetts for current and future generations to enjoy. The Trustees work to promote healthy, active, and green communities locally across Massachusetts by providing hundreds of year-round programs, events and engagement opportunities for all ages. Most property entry fees, programs and events are free- of-charge or discounted for members. Accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, The Trustees are an established leader in the conservation movement and model for other land trusts nationally and internationally. One of the largest nonprofits in Massachusetts, The Trustees employ 150 full-time, 49 regular part-time, and 400 seasonal staff with expertise in ecology, education, historic resources, land protection, conservation, land management, and planning. To find out more or to become a member or volunteer, please contact www.thetrustees.org.

More about the Westport Land Conservation Trust
Since its founding in 1972, the Westport Land Conservation Trust has assisted landowners in protecting more than 3,800 acres in Westport, Massachusetts. WLCT is a private non- governmental organization dedicated to local land conservation on behalf of the Westport community. The organization accepts gifts of land and conservation restrictions on land, and assists farm owners in preserving farmland through agricultural preservation restrictions.

More about the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program
The Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program is a voluntary program which is intended to offer a non-development alternative to farmers and other owners of "prime" and "state important" agricultural land who are faced with a decision regarding future use and disposition of their farms. Towards this end, the program offers to pay farmland owners the difference between the "fair market value" and the "agricultural value" of their farmland in exchange for a permanent deed restriction which precludes any use of the property that will have a negative impact on its agricultural viability.

Massachusetts’ APR program, began as an act of the Legislature in 1979, was the first in our nation and has since been a model upon which many other states have built their programs. As of 2011 the Massachusetts APR program has permanently protected over 800 farms and a total land area of over 67,000 acres. The primary purpose of the APR program is to preserve and protect agricultural land, including designated farmland soils, which are a finite natural resource, from being built upon for non-agricultural purposes or used for any activity detrimental to agriculture and to maintain APR land values at a level that can be supported by the land’s agricultural uses and potential.

To request additional photos please contact Chris Detwiller: cdetwiller@ttor.org