Agricultural lands continue to be a cornerstone of communities across Metrowest. The availability of local food is more important than ever, which is why the Metrowest Conservation Alliance (MCA) believes in enhancing and supporting our local farms.
Conserving farmland can be a complex process that must be tailored to the individual production type and business structure. The wide variety of experiences within the MCA allows members to come together to find appropriate solutions to conserve important agricultural lands and support our remaining agricultural businesses.
MCA partners work together in many ways to protect agricultural land, which is one of the many goals of open space preservation.
- Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR)
- APRs are voluntary development restrictions through the state that are focused on keeping the land in production.
- Conservation Restriction (CR)
- CRs can also be used for farms. Many farms that have been protected with a CR continue to grow and thrive. For example, Stearns Farm in Framingham has operated with a CR since the 1970s and has been functioning as a CSA since the 1990s.
- Leased Town Land
- Many towns lease town-owned agricultural land to farmers.
Farm Support Organizations and Agencies
- Land for Good works to ensure the future of farming in New England by putting more farmers more securely on more land.
- New Entry Sustainable Farming Project works to improve our local and regional food systems by training the next generation of farmers to produce food that is sustainable, nutritious, and culturally preferred and making this food accessible to individuals regardless of age, mobility, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.
- American Farmland Trust works to save the land that sustains us by protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land.
- New England Small Farm Institute works to promote small farm development by providing information and training for aspiring, beginning, and transitioning farmers.
- Farm Based Education Association (FBEN) is a free member network established to strengthen and support the work of educators, farmers, and community leaders who provide access and experiences of all kinds on working farms.
- NOFA Mass -Through education and advocacy, NOFA/Mass promotes organic agriculture to expand the production and availability of nutritious food from living soil for the health of individuals, communities, and the planet.
- MA Department of Agricultural Resources
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
- MA Farm Bureau
- Farm Transfer Network
- New England Farmland Finder
Massachusetts Food Systems Plan
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), the Massachusetts Food Policy Council, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, in collaboration with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Franklin Regional Council of Governments, and Massachusetts Workforce Alliance, are currently working with constituents across the state to develop the plan.
The plan will identify goals and strategies to:
- Increase production, sales, and consumption of Massachusetts-grown foods;
- Create jobs and economic opportunity in food and farming, and improve the wages and skills of food system workers;
- Protect the land and water needed to produce food, maximize the environmental benefits from agriculture and fishing, and ensure food safety; and
- Reduce hunger and food insecurity, increase the availability of fresh, healthy food to all residents, and reduce food waste.
Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination (Magic) Comprehensive Agricultural Planning Program
- MAPC and the Agricultural Planning Working Group members prepared the final draft of the Program Report in January 2014. The Report provides an overview of the project, issues, and obstacles relating to agricultral viability that were investigated, and recommendations for strategies to overcome these challenges.
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project - Community Farmland Connections Through a Targeted GIS Identification and Outreach Approach
- New Entry is piloting a project using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in various towns to identify existing and potential farmland. New Entry works with the town and their agricultural commission to strategize about how to best reach out to the owners of the potential farmland and encourage them to rent their land to a farmer. This project is also an opportunity to develop or refine an agricultural inventory and map of a town.
Food Security/Farmland Access Studies
- Conway School, Franklin County Study - A study done by the Conway School to determine whether Franklin County, Massachusetts, has the land resources needed to achieve complete food self-sufficiency—to sustainably produce all of the food needed to feed its population. The study suggests that most prime farmland soils not in cultivation are currently forested. Conservationists can help by thinking more creatively in determining future uses of a piece of land. Although it may be forested, might it be better suited to agriculture?
- Pioneer Valley Planning Commission Food Security Plan - Compiled a list of action items for food security in Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts. One action item that conservationists could fulfill is “Preserve farmland and work to convert available land that may not currently be used as farmland, to agricultural purposes.