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Sheffield Farmland Protected

Posted Monday, September 2, 2019

Through the APR Program, BNRC helped secure $1.6 million in state funding to protect this farmland.

APR ensures land will keep growing forever.

In October of 2015 BNRC received a question from Morven Allen, a Sheffield dairy farmer: Can BNRC help preserve Windy Hill Farm? Allen, who owns the Balsam Hill farm, was also managing 174 acres owned by Warren Wilcox, and hoped to purchase the land and keep it in agriculture. But he needed BNRC’s help shepherding the ApR through the State’s process.

The Agricultural preservation Restriction (ApR) program is administered by the Commonwealth’s department of Agricultural Resources. In essence, the State buys the development rights from farmers, thereby protecting farmland from development and reducing the cost of good land for farmers. BNRC assists farmers with mapping areas that should be included/excluded from the ApR, and if necessary, assists with a first appraisal to get a handle on real property values.

Wilcox grew up in Connecticut working on a farm in Middlefield called Lyman Orchards. Much of it is now a golf course and, as Warren said, “a golf course and cows don’t go together.” After leaving Lyman Orchards in the 1960s, Warren began looking for his own place. In Sheffield he found Windy Hill Farm (not to be confused with the nursery and orchard of the same name in Great Barrington), and after 50 years of hard work, he was not interested in seeing it bulldozed into house lots.

Warren’s ApR preserves 174 acres of prime farmland, which will be used to hold and graze the calves from Morven’s dairy farm. Also protected are the sweeping views of the Taconic Range from Hulett Hill Road. Once the ApR was completed, Warren sold the land to Morven, who also farms adjacent fields in BNRC’s Suter Reserve, comprising 152 acres of conserved fields and forest.

Sharing some of his farm’s history, Warren said of one of his large fields had originally been divided into 3 smaller ones. “I moved all the stone and hedgerows to make it a single workable field,” he remembered.

Asked what he was going to do now that his farm is sold, he said he’d take it easy. “Ever hear of a farmer taking it easy?” he added. “I never did.” Knowing his beloved farmland is protected forever, Warren Wilcox can definitely put his feet up and relax!

Learn more about BNRC’s Agriculture Program