Prospect Hill Community Orchard Is Protected
In another big win for conservation, Prospect Hill Community Orchard in Harvard has been protected!
On June 29, the Town of Harvard and Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) finalized their purchase of an agricultural preservation restriction (APR) on 70 acres of this orchard owned by Community Harvest Project (CHP).
This significant achievement was made possible through the collaborative efforts of Sudbury Valley Trustees, Harvard Conservation Trust (HCT), the Town, MDAR, CHP, and the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. Together, the project partners raised $2.5 million for the purchase of the APR. SVT concluded our portion of the fundraising in Summer 2022.
Prospect Hill Community Orchard, owned and operated by the non-profit CHP since 2014, has played a vital role in engaging volunteers in the fight against hunger. With a mission to address food insecurity, CHP has generously donated over 1 million pounds of apples to hunger relief organizations, thanks to the dedicated work of thousands of volunteers.
The APR will be jointly held by MDAR and the Town of Harvard, with HCT holding an easement for a trail along the orchard's southern edge. By extinguishing development rights and ensuring farming can continue, this initiative safeguards critical farmland and strengthens local, regional, and state-level conservation efforts.
The APR program, run by MDAR, offers a non-development alternative to farmers. The program pays farmland owners the difference between the “fair market value” and the “agricultural value” of their farmland in exchange for a permanent deed restriction protecting the farmland for future agricultural use.
“Through collective effort and dedication we have safeguarded the future of this orchard and with it, the ability to continue to feed those experiencing hunger in our community," said Tori Buerschaper, Executive Director of Community Harvest Project. "We are grateful to all who contributed to this milestone we celebrate today."
In addition to saving valuable farmland, the protection of Prospect Hill Community Orchard fills a gap in an extensive conservation corridor. The orchard, along with Dean's Hill, Fruitlands, and the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge, is now part of a cohesive network of conserved lands. To promote public access and passive recreation, the constructed trail will be accessible throughout most of the year, allowing visitors to engage in activities such as hiking and birdwatching.
Lisa Vernegaard, Executive Director of SVT, added, "This successful project is a stellar illustration of a collaborative effort to save important lands, bolster hunger-relief operations, and support local agriculture. It's a win-win-win."