Thistle Dew Farm Protected!

Thistle Dew Farm. Photo by Adrian Collins and Kevin Drake.
Thistle Dew Farm. Photo by Adrian Collins and Kevin Drake.

Thistle Dew Farm on Highland Street in Holliston has been permanently conserved as farmland, thanks to an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) that has been placed on 28 acres of the land.

SVT joined with the Town of Holliston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on this conservation effort, which took several years to complete.

“It’s always gratifying to help save a local farm,” said Christa Collins, SVT’s Director of Land Protection. “Small farms are essential to the character of our communities. They provide fresh, healthy food, contribute to local economies, and offer scenic views along our roadways. We welcome the opportunity to work with any farmer who is interested in the state’s APR program.”

The Town of Holliston and Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) purchased the APR from longtime owner Charlie Nickerson on October 21. Under the terms of the agreement, the land will still be privately owned, but all current and future owners are obligated to keep it as farmland and cannot develop it. 

Holliston’s Outpost Farm had been leasing the land and has now purchased the portion of the farm covered by the APR. Outpost will use the land to expand its farming operations. 

The Massachusetts APR program protects productive farmland by offering financial relief to farmers who might otherwise need to sell their property to developers. The landowner can realize a significant financial gain by selling the APR, although the loss of development possibilities lowers the land’s appraised value for future sales.

The Town of Holliston contributed $500,000 of Community Preservation Act funds toward the $1.1 million purchase price of the APR. MDAR contributed $465,588. The state and the town will co-hold the APR to ensure the land always stays in farming.

SVT also played an essential role. We participated in the long-term negotiations with the landowner, and we raised $150,000 from private individuals to assist with the purchase and to cover legal fees and other expenses. Mass Audubon, which owns the adjacent 229-acre Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary, provided a tremendous boost to SVT’s fundraising by securing a $100,000 contribution from an anonymous donor. 

“We are thrilled to protect this scenic property and preserve the rural nature of Holliston,” said Lixy Carey, Chair of Holliston’s Open Space Committee. “Area residents will continue to enjoy fresh, local produce that is grown on the farm. We greatly appreciate the contributions of the Commonwealth as well as SVT and Mass Audubon.”