- Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
- Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Announces Permanent Protections of Three Family Farms in Bristol County
Craig Gilvarg, Director of Communications
BOSTON — The Baker-Polito Administration announced today the permanent protection of farms in Bristol County totaling 85 acres through the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ (MDAR) Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program, and in collaboration with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Westport Land Conservation Trust, and the Towns of Westport, Rehoboth, and Dighton. A total of $1,007,600 in funding will go towards the protection of the three farms in the local municipalities. Importantly, the APR Program enables Massachusetts farmers to permanently protect their land from future development.
“As the Commonwealth’s agriculture sector experiences the progressing impacts of climate change, it is critical that we take steps to protect invaluable farmland and ensure the resilience of our agricultural economy,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “In an area of the state that is under intense pressure from development, we are pleased to protect these farms in perpetuity through the APR program.”
“The Baker-Polito Administration is proud to protect and preserve this land in Bristol County for future generations, and congratulates the landowners, the Westport Land Conservation Trust, and the towns of Westport, Rehoboth and Dighton on their commitment and vision for the future with these important projects,” said Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux.
The APR Program preserves and protects agricultural soils from use for non-agricultural purposes or any activity detrimental to agriculture. The voluntary program helps pay farmers the difference between the fair market value and the agricultural land value of their land, in exchange for a permanent deed restriction. The program also works to revitalize the agricultural industry by making land more affordable to farmers and their operations more financially secure. Since the inception of the APR program 40 years ago, over 74,000 acres of farmland has been protected across the Commonwealth through more than 900 acquisitions.
“We’re pleased to have partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources on the preservation of 85 acres of farmland in the towns of Dighton Dartmouth, Rehoboth, and Westport,” said Dan Wright, Massachusetts State Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. “By providing funding through the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, we’re able to help farmers and partners protect working agricultural lands and prime farmland soils, which provides many environmental benefits for the Commonwealth. Thanks to the Amaral, Araujo, and Silvia/Pettey families, this land will remain in sustainable farming for many generations.”
Through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land. Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs. NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of an agricultural land easement.
Individuals receiving APR funding for farms include:
Stephen A. Pettey and Joyce P. Silvia, Westport - $539,600
This 35.5+/- acre property is comprised of 22+/- acres of crop and pastureland and is located on Sodom Road in Westport. Approximately 51.5% of the 35.5 (+/-) acre property is comprised of Prime or Farmland of Statewide Important soils. Steve is currently leasing the property to a local beef operation, that is using the property for hay and pasture. The Westport Land Conservation Trust partnered on the acquisition of the property and the Town of Westport contributed Community Preservation Act funds.
Richard and Elanor Amaral, Rehoboth - $261,000
Located on Davis Street, Rehoboth and totaling approximately 29.87 +/- acres, the Amaral property has a long history of active agriculture and is currently being used for corn, peppers, squash and pumpkins. The Town of Rehoboth Community Preservation Committee (CPC) worked with the APR Program to commit funding toward the project.
K.J. Araujo, Ltd. Dighton - $207,000
The K.J. Araujo farm on Elm Street totals approximately 20.7 +/- acres. The property has a long history of active agriculture and is currently being used for squash and pumpkins. The Araujo family had rented this farmland for 20 years, growing a variety of mixed vegetables, before they purchased the property in March 2017, and now wish to protect it with an APR. The town of Dighton contributed to the acquisition.
“This farm has been in my family for years,” said owner Steve Pettey. “My goal was to ensure that it would remain that way and continue to be a part of Westport.”
“I am so happy that I worked with the APR Program to preserve the farmland that has been in my family for over 60 years,” said Eleanor Amaral. “There has been so much development in Rehoboth lately, but it’s nice to know that this land is now preserved for future generations of farmers."
“I first saw this property when I was a little boy and I decided back then that I wanted to own it one day,” said Ken Araujo. “Fifty years later I ended up purchasing the property. I bought the land to farm it, but also to protect it. This is some of the best soil east of the Mississippi and land this good should always be farmed and never developed. The APR Program was a great tool to accomplish this goal.”
“WLCT was thrilled to assist with the protection of this critical farm on Sodom Road,” said Ross Moran, Executive Director of WLCT. “This farm is located in a block of over 400 acres of protected farmland and will be forever protected because of the community’s commitment to Westport’s farmers and farmland.”
“As a Right to Farm Community with a long history of agricultural endeavors, the Town of Westport has been a strong supporter of local and state government actions that can facilitate keeping the local farms in the community working and thriving.” said Tim King, Town Administrator for the Town of Westport. “The recent Pettey APR is an example of what non-profits, MDAR, and the Town of Westport can achieve with inter-governmental cooperation to further that goal.”
“Westport and the entire South Coast has greatly benefited from the APR program, and I am thrilled to see that another important farm in the town will be protected,” said Chair of Senate Ways & Means Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport). “Protecting and preserving these farms is critical to the industry and to our region’s economy and food production.”
“The APR program has been instrumental in permanently protecting agricultural land in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Paul R. Feeney (D-Foxborough).” “The town of Rehoboth has a history steeped in farming and due to the collective commitment of the Amaral family, the town's CPC, and the Commonwealth, this farmland will remain viable for future generations while safeguarding active agricultural land in the community and our region.”
“I am very pleased that the Araujo farm in Dighton has been approved for long-term agricultural preservation through the APR initiative,” said Dean of the Massachusetts Senate Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton). “Local agricultural operations are critical to our community preservation and environmental sustainability efforts here in Southeastern Massachusetts. Thanks to the Araujo family, the Town of Dighton, the Department of Agricultural Resources, and the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service for their hard work towards implementing these important local preservation measures.”
“The APR Program has been a critical asset for Westport’s farming community,” says Representative Paul Schmid (D-Westport). “Twenty-seven farms in Westport have been protected with this program, and those farms will always be available for farming.”
“The APR program is essential to keep the agricultural industry in Massachusetts thriving. Happy to see the Araujo family utilize this program to fulfil a lifelong dream to own farmland while protecting and preserving agriculture in Dighton for future generations,” said Representative Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset).
“With numerous new housing developments springing up in Rehoboth, a right to farm community, saving open space helps to ensure that the rural character of Rehoboth continues into the future,” said Representative Steven S. Howitt (R-Seekonk).
“All the credit really goes to Eleanor Amaral who steadfastly worked to preserve her family's legacy,” said Carol Williams, the Chair of the Community Preservation Committee in Rehoboth. “The Town will be forever grateful for this gift.”
“The Community Preservation Commission is very grateful that this APR project was a success and some excellent farmland in Dighton will be preserved in perpetuity,” said Tim Rhines, Chair of the Dighton Planning Board. “Town residents should be happy that no houses will be built on this beautiful piece of land that is not only agriculturally productive but also historically significant to Native American populations.”