The Town of Hatfield and Kestrel Land Trust have preserved nearly 22 acres of farmland on the southern boundary of Black Birch Vineyard, which supported the effort by purchasing the protected acreage and additional land. This project prevented a proposed subdivision of 18 new houses that would have stretched across farmland from North Hatfield Road to Straits Road, a scenic area with a long agricultural history.
When Town residents first learned of the subdivision proposal, concerns were raised that the development would threaten the viability of this agricultural area by fragmenting farm operations, altering the groundwater supply, and destroying the area’s character as an up-and-coming agro-tourism destination.
Responding to these concerns and the recommendations of Hatfield’s Conservation Commision, Planning Board, and Agricultural Advisory Commission, the Town exercised its Right of First Refusal under Chapter 61A to save the farmland and asked Kestrel Land Trust to help orchestrate the real estate transaction.
Mark Wamsley, a Conservation & Steward Manager at Kestrel, noted that “While land trusts are able and willing to offer this type of technical assistance to our municipal partners, it really does take community support to make a project like this a success due to their complexity, tight timelines, and expense.” At Annual Town Meeting, Hatfield residents agreed to commit $120,000 from the Town’s Community Preservation Act funds to help purchase a conservation restriction on a portion of the land. That restriction is now held by the Town’s Conservation Commission.
“The protection of this farmland on the Sliwoski Farm reflects the importance to Hatfield residents of retaining agricultural business opportunities and the soil resources that sustain them. This was a true community effort,” said Bob Wagner, who chairs the Agricultural Advisory Commission and the Planning Board.
The larger 26.4-acre property, along with the 21.79 acres of protected farmland, was later purchased by Black Birch Vineyard. Black Birch is considering extending its vineyard operations on the eastern, Straits Road portion of the land while keeping some existing hayfields. The Vineyard retains the option of selling three house lots on the North Hatfield Road side of the property to help defray their costs in acquiring the land.
“Since our move to Hatfield two years ago, our appreciation of this rich farming community has grown and we are excited to have been able to purchase the adjacent land to help preserve what has been an integral part of the history of Hatfield. Black Birch Vineyard’s hope is to be able to preserve and foster sustainable agriculture practices for future generations,” said Michelle Kersbergen, who owns the vineyard with her husband Ian Modesto.
This successful effort will be celebrated at Black Birch Vineyard’s annual Summer Celebration on Saturday, August 3, 1:30-4:30 pm, at 108 Straits Road in Hatfield, MA. Beauty and the Altered Beast will perform and the Local Burger food truck will offer food for purchase. Lawn chairs or picnic blankets are recommended; no outside alcohol please. Tours of the vineyard and winery will be offered at 1:30 and 3:30 pm. Rain date is Sunday, August 4, 1:00-5:00 pm.