The Northampton Community Farm sits on 121 acres of the former Bean and Allard Farms, land that is now permanently protected as farmland.
As the largest community farm in Massachusetts, we lease most of our land to small farmers in amounts of less than an acre to as much as 90 acres, and for time periods from 1 to 99 years. We seek to address well documented challenges in land access for farmers with a flexible and innovative approach to leases on land and infrastructure, while striving for a mix of economically and environmentally compatible and sustainable farm operations.
What is a community farm?
A community farm strives to meet both the interests of the community in which it resides as well as the interests of the farmers who steward its land.
- Increased contact with how our food is grown and harvested
- Access to fresh, nutrient-dense food
- Open space & habitat preservation
- Stewardship of natural resources like soil, air & water
- Preservation of affordable access to land for farmers
- Preservation of historic buildings
- Opportunities for education and celebration
- Supporting a new generation of farmers
- Long-term security of tenure
- The opportunity to build equity
- Access to adequate markets
- Opportunity to make a living
- Opportunity to leave a legacy
- Ability to provide stewardship of the land
The Northampton Community Farm has become a permanent asset to our community by…
- Protecting our prime soils, water, and food quality by employing sustainable, organic practices
- Growing an abundant supply of healthy food for local markets
- Leasing community garden plots to hundreds of residents
- Offering agricultural learning opportunities at our community garden and farm through garden workshops and programs for all ages through The Farm Education Collaborative.
- Inviting public celebration, events, workshops, and strolls on our farmland.
How Grow Food Northampton came to own this land
Thanks to a collaborative preservation effort of The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the City of Northampton, both the Bean and Allard Farms are forever protected from development. In 2010, TPL purchased both farms, a total of 180 acres for $2.5 million, then sold 60 of these acres to the City of Northampton to establish a recreational complex and a river greenway. Furthermore, The City and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources purchased an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) on the remaining 121 acres of farmland, ensuring that they would be forever farmed.
Citizens stepped up to the opportunity to buy this farmland by forming the non-profit organization, Grow Food Northampton. In six months, Grow Food Northampton raised over $670,000 to buy all 121 acres. On February 25, 2011, Grow Food Northampton purchased the APR farmland from TPL and the Northampton Community Farm was born.
The Trust for Public Land's work on the Northampton Community Farm helped to open our minds to the possibilities inherent in community agriculture. In the course of the project, we accepted the risk of partnering with and selling land to a newly formed nonprofit (Grow Food Northampton) rather than selling to individuals who already had financing in place. The result is beyond what any of us could have expected, and it has put us on the lookout for other opportunities like this that stretch the imagination and push our risk tolerance.
A History of the Land
Located on the fertile floodplains of the Mill River, our farmland consists of prime agricultural soils (Winooski and Pootatuck loam) and has been tilled continuously throughout Northampton’s history.
In the 1840s, it was owned by the famous abolitionist community, The Northampton Association of Education and Industry, and grew diverse crops that sustained local heroes like Sojourner Truth and David Ruggles as they worked to fight slavery and gender inequality.
When an earthenwork dam breached on the Mill River in 1874, sending 600 million gallons of water through Williamsburgh, Skinnerville and Leeds, much of the debris carried by the flood (factories, homes, bridges and river stone) was strewn on these farm fields.
In 1902, Henry Bean purchased 47 acres of the land and, thereafter, five generations of Beans raised fruits, vegetables, hogs, and chickens for local markets. Due to residential encroachment and competition from industrial agriculture, however, the Valley’s family farming culture declined during the 20th century. By the 1970s, the Bean Farm was one of the last family farms in Florence.
Meanwhile, the adjoining farmland (owned most recently by Allard Farm based in Hadley, MA) grew tobacco from the late 1800s through the 1960s, then single crops such as corn, hay, and pumpkins during most of the remaining 20th century. In recent years, this land was leased by Swaz Farm and grew potatoes.
The Bean and Allard families are pleased to know that this land is now a permanent agricultural resource for our community.