Princeton Land Trust, Mass Audubon Team Up To Save Farm Bordering Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary
Michael P. O'Connor
PRINCETON—Mass Audubon and the Princeton Land Trust have secured an option to purchase Fieldstone Farm, located adjacent to Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton. Also known as the Smith Farm, the 300-acre agricultural property on Hubbardston Road is a local landmark, and includes an 18th-century farmhouse, fields, woods, and wetlands.
The option gives the two conservation organizations until June of 2016 to meet the $3 million purchase price.
The goal of the project is to protect as much of the vulnerable property as possible. Eventual ownership may be divided among several public, nonprofit, and private parties, including a farmer.
“This gives us an opportunity to conserve a key parcel in our town,” said Tom Sullivan, President of the Princeton Land Trust. “The question is whether we can find enough conservation-minded partners and donors to make it possible.”
Sullivan explained that they will begin a dialogue with the town and the public about this important opportunity. Supporters have already spoken with state agencies and other potential partners, and will begin to finalize plans and seek commitments. A broad-based fundraising campaign to raise a portion of the purchase price will commence later this year.
The community-based land trust and Mass Audubon plan to work with the town and local residents on possible limited residential development as part of an overall plan that will focus on agriculture, trails, and wildlife habitat.
“This is very exciting,” said Wachusett Meadow Director Deb Cary, who also serves on the town’s Open Space Committee. “The townspeople of Princeton have listed this property in the Open Space Plan as one of the top sites for protection since we first began open space planning in 2000. It has beautiful and productive agricultural fields and yet with all that road frontage, it is very vulnerable to development.
“This farm is part of what makes Princeton what it is,” Cary added. “In response to surveys conducted both for the Open Space and Recreation Plan as well as the ‘Town Plan,’ residents have consistently voiced their support for farming to continue here. There are adjacent woodlands with forests, streams, and wonderful wildlife habitat for people to enjoy as well.
“But we’re going to need a lot of help to succeed,” she stressed.
Fieldstone Farm is owned by three brothers, Charles, James, and Jonathan Smith, who inherited it from their mother Ruth when she passed away in 2010. It has been owned since 1944 by the Smith family, who operated it first as a dairy farm and later raised pigs. In recent years, the fields have been cut for hay.
Mass Audubon protects more than 38,000 acres of land throughout Massachusetts, saving birds and other wildlife, and making nature accessible to all. As Massachusetts' largest nature conservation nonprofit, we welcome more than a half million visitors a year to our wildlife sanctuaries and 20 nature centers. From inspiring hilltop views to breathtaking coastal landscapes, serene woods, and working farms, we believe in protecting our state's natural treasures for wildlife and for all people's vision shared in 1896 by our founders, two extraordinary Boston women.
Today, Mass Audubon is a nationally recognized environmental education leader, offering thousands of camp, school, and adult programs that get over 225,000 kids and adults outdoors every year. With more than 135,000 members and supporters, we advocate on Beacon Hill and beyond, and conduct conservation research to preserve the natural heritage of our beautiful state for today's and future generations. We welcome you to explore a nearby sanctuary, find inspiration, and get involved. Learn how at www.massaudubon.org.