the trustees of reservations
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The Trustees of Reservations

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Warner Farm and Mikes Maze in Sunderland, MA - CSAs on CR-Protected Farms

Aerial view looking N/NE up the Connecticut River - Warner Farm sits on its east (right side) bank!. Photo Credit:

Warner Farm and Mikes Maze: CSA shares in the Pioneer Valley and Metro Boston. Nationally-renowned corn maze every Autumn!
32+ acres protected by a 1986 Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) held by The Trustees of Reservations
Kale and greens growing at Warner Farm, in some of the world's richest agricultural soil! Photo Credit:

Eleaser Warner (1694-1776) lived in an agricultural age, when the idyllic town of Sunderland (Swampfield at that time) was a newly incorporated frontier settlement.  Times have changed since he founded Warner Farm in 1720 (he probably never suspected it would have a Facebook Page), but we think he'd be happy to see his 10th-generation descendants till the same rich agricultural soil on the banks of the Connecticut River nearly 300 years later.  Today it is one of the oldest family farms in New England, watched over by Deerfield's scenic Mount Sugarloaf (now a DCR State Reservation), and just minutes north of UMass Amherst.  The farm is run by a dedicated staff of four: father and son Mike and David Wissemann; CSA Manager Jess Marsh; and Taylor Haas, Equipment Operator and Yard Manager.   They grow over 100 varieties of vegetables, using USDA certified organic practices, with 17 acres dedicated to offering Certified Organic produce.  CSA Members can purchase summer shares of vegetables, fruit, eggs, and flowers, and pick them up at a variety of Pioneer Valley locations, and even in Eastern MA at the Winchester Farmer's Market, and at the Winchester/Woburn Whole Foods Market, - see all locations here. They have formed an innovative partnership to provide produce at Brandeis University in Waltham, which you can read about by clicking here

Noah Webster challenges 2011 Mike's Maze visitors with a word search game in corn! Photo Credit:
Warner Farm may be best known as the host site of Mike's Maze, Wissemann's creation with a friend, artist Will Sillin.  Since 2000, the two have collaborated to create intricate corn maze art installations, designed as famous people and art pieces, and grown in corn.  We are talking nationally televised, Ripley's Believe-it-or-Not intricate here - the maze has been featured on Ripley's television show, on CNN, ABC, and the Weather Channel!  In past mazes, they have covered everything from the Mona Lisa in 2001, to the 2004 Presidential Candidates, to Noah Webster (of Merriam-Webster Dictionary fame, still a local business in nearby Springfield today!) in 2011.  The maze is open to the public on weekends during September and October.  Stay tuned to their website for the astounding design of this year's ma(i)ze - a great excuse to visit a gorgeous and fun region in peak foliage and get lost in corn! 

The Trustees of Reservations and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources ensure permanent protection of this private farm through an Agricultural Preservation Restriction. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CSAs on CR-protected Farms #1 - Tangerini's Spring Street Farm in Millis

Families can pick their own veggies at Spring Street Farm
Photo Credit: Tangerini's Spring Street Farm
Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an economic model that brings customers to local farms, as shareholders of a growing season's crops.  It not only supports the economic health and viability of farms, but the health of  local customers connected to fresh, local food.  What's more, in the age of development pressure and sprawl, a successful CSA helps keep land in agriculture, and maintains the traditional scenic landscape of Massachusetts.  As you may already know, The Trustees of Reservations runs CSAs at four farm-oriented Reservations: Appleton Farms in Ipswich & Hamilton; Moraine Farm in Beverly; Powisset Farm in Dover; and Weir River Farm in Hingham.  In addition, we are thrilled that our Conservation Restrictions (CRs) and Agricultural Preservation Restrictions (APRs) protect five private farms running CSA programs from Boston (yes, within the city limits) and Metro Boston to the Pioneer Valley.  To sum up what some farm landowners have told us on our monitoring visits, now is a great time to be in farming, and one expressed his unexpected (but welcome!) surprise that local farmers have become almost 'rock stars' in the local public eye, as commitment to local food has grown in recent decades. We want to share a bit about these successful farms and farmers that Trustees of Reservations CRs help make possible - stay tuned for a series of posts featuring these CSAs. 

Tangerini's Spring Street Farm - Millis, MA - CSA and community-centered farm in Metro West!
67+ acres protected by a 1997 Trustees of Reservations CR, and a 1983 and 1997 state-held APR

Photo Credit: Tangerini's Spring Street Farm

Tangerini's Spring Street Farm is a thriving family farm today, in no small part due to the CSA model.  Just a half mile from the center of Millis, it provides a beautiful working farm and open space that contrasts with its pleasant suburban neighborhood surroundings.  Its history dates to the early 19th century, when the upper Charles River valley was a patchwork of such farms.  Through most of the 20th century, it was known as DeAngelis Farm, stewarded by Louie DeAngelis, who spent his whole life on the family farm.  Mr. DeAngelis ensured its permanent protection through a 1982 APR, and by willing the farm to Trustees' affiliate, the Massachusetts Land Conservation Trust, upon his death in 1993.  The Trustees fulfilled his wishes of finding new farmers to work the property, and screened applicants and their farm plans from all over New England.  By 1995, Laura and Charlie Tangerini were selected as the stewards of Mr. DeAngelis's legacy to Millis.

The Tangerinis offer multiple CSA options year-round, from traditional spring and summer crops, to winter and deep winter shares.  Perhaps most unique are their "U-Pick Flower Share," offering twenty stems of annual flowers per week during a 12-13 week period from July to September, and their "Food to Share" program, which provides fresh produce shares at reduced cost for those in need. 

(Photo Credit: Edible Boston; photographer Michael Piazza)

The Tangerinis' commitment to community-minded agriculture and conservation extends well beyond their CSA, and a poignant example is their annual summer staff of over a dozen local teenagers.  What better way to instill a lifelong appreciation of the land in the next generation than hands-on experience working it?  Read all about it in Edible Boston's wonderful past feature about Tangerini Farm, its farmers, and their teen employees by clicking here.  Take a trip out to Millis this Spring or Summer, and you can treat yourself to ice cream from their stand, pick your own produce or buy it from the farmstand, then walk off that ice cream on their public walking trail.  If you are a local, you might consider the healthy commitment to a CSA share of the summer bounty!  Get a jump on it, and purchase preseason market shares by March 31, to get a 20% discount, or by May 1, for a 10% discount, at the farmstand or the Natick Farmer's Market, through their Market Share program.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vernal pools

Signs of spring are in the air -- the call of tree frogs known as "peepers" , warmer temperatures, rain and longer days are all signs that winter is almost (officially) over. Not that it was a much of a winter! But soon the temporarily filled vernal pools on many conservation properties will be home once again to many species of amphibians like the Blue Spotted Salamander. Vernal pools are unique wildlife habitats best known for the amphibians and invertebrate animals that use them to breed. If you want to know more about this important -- but fleeting -- part of the Massachusetts landscape, check out the state's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program HERE.