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Massachusetts Preserves West Stockbridge Farm During Pandemic

The Springstube Farm in West Stockbridge, Mass. sold its development rights on 165 acres as a way to preserve the farm fields and pastures.
Berkshire Natural Resources Commission
The Springstube Farm in West Stockbridge, Mass. sold its development rights on 165 acres as a way to preserve the farm fields and pastures.

The state of Massachusetts has purchased the development rights on 165 acres of farmland in West Stockbridge. In a statement, the state said preserving farmland is all the more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we respond to the impacts of COVID-19 and focus on strengthening our food security in Massachusetts, it is more important than ever that we take steps to protect valuable farmland and ensure the resilience of our agricultural economy,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides.

The nearly $1.7 million purchase is part of the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program. Farmers voluntarily sell the right to develop their land in exchange for preserving it. The state pays the difference between the fair market and agricultural value. The program has preserved more than 74,000 acres in the past four decades.

John Springstube's farm was started by his grandparents in the late 1800s. He said selling the development rights is a way to keep it going.

“My family put a lot of hard work in maintaining the farm, keeping the fields, making fields, making stone walls, you name it,” Springstube said. “And we have houses all around us now and I never wanted to see our property go into that.”

Springstube, 70, raises goats, sheep and chickens. He said that during the pandemic, eggs have been selling rapidly.

This is the second farm the state has preserved during the pandemic. The acquisitions are not directly tied to the coronavirus.

Even so, John Lebeaux, the Department Agricultural Resources commissioner said, “The ability to increase and have a reliable source of locally-produced food, it really comes to the forefront now. That’s an overarching goal of the [APR] program... to bolster that.”

The Berkshire Natural Resources Council assisted the Springstube Farm with its application to the APR program. The Council previously helped preserve another 204 acres that abuts the farm. Most of that land had also been owned by Springstube. It includes Tom Ball Mountain, with views across the Taconic Range.

Narain Schroeder, the director of land conservation for the BNRC, said the agricultural parcel preserved by the state is “where farmland meets the mountain.”  

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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