Angino Community Farm Is On The Way
City Approves Purchase and Begins Acquisition
In December 2004, the Newton Board of Aldermen voted to fund the Newton Conservators’ proposal for the acquisition of the Angino Farm. With their vote (20 yes, 4 no ), the Aldermen brought to a close a nine-month process during which the idea to operate the property as a community farm took shape. Now a new process is in motion to close the acquisition and set up the infrastructure for operation of the farm. The schedule for this part of the process will take us into May.
Meanwhile, we are working with the city and with other groups to prepare for the first season’s harvest at Angino Farm. It is unclear at this point how long that will take and whether we can expect 2005 to be the first season or whether we will have to wait until 2006. Either way, there is a great deal of activity needed to get this project underway, only part of which has directly to do with planting.
Needless to say, the Conservators are extremely pleased that the city has agreed to save one of Newton ’s most significant remaining open spaces. In a city nearing full build-out, with few remaining privately held open spaces, the Conservators will continue to negotiate with landowners and advocate for the protection of irreplaceable open spaces.
One thing that has been especially gratifying about the effort to save Angino Farm is the tremendous outpouring of community support for this project. Newton residents spoke out loudly for saving our last farm and returning it to agricultural use as a community farm and city officials heard the call. We thank all of those who wrote letters, made phone calls, volunteered countless hours and made pledges of financial support to insure the success of our efforts.
Current activity on the city side falls into three categories. First is the acquisition of the property. The city is negotiating the final details of the Purchase and Sale Agreement with the Angino family. As part of the purchase process, a permanent conservation restriction (CR) is being developed, as required by the Community Preservation Act, to protect the property from resale or unintended use down the road. This CR must be approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection and will likely be held by the Conservators. Closure on the CR and the property itself is expected to occur in May 2005, at the latest.
The second city activity relates to rezoning of the property. The farm is currently zoned for housing, which, while questionable under prior circumstances, is clearly inappropriate for a community farm. The most likely scenario is to convert this property to a “public use” zone and those details are being worked out with the Board of Aldermen, who must approve all zoning changes.
Finally, the city is designing an oversight process to manage its interests in the operation of the farm. A Farm Commission is being discussed that would be made up of a variety of city and community representatives. It would have responsibility for selecting and contracting with a farm operator, reviewing and approving business plans, and monitoring operations to ensure compliance with city interests. The precise size and shape of this new city board is still in discussion. Formation of the Farm Commission will require passage of an enabling ordinance by the Board of Aldermen, appointment and approval of members fitting the requirements of the ordinance, and organization of the Commission. It is unclear how long this process will take or what shortcuts may be possible to expedite first-season decisions, but this is probably the most critical outstanding issue in terms of the farm’s ability to actually get into the ground this summer.
Our vision for the farm, which has been conveyed to city officials, includes a resident farmer, organic farming, produce sales, educational programs, and the donation of food to those in need. One thing that it is important to emphasize is that the Conservators’ proposal to the Community Preservation Committee calls for a financially independent, non-profit community farm operation that would not depend on continuing financial support from the city. The operation would pay its own way and maintain the farm buildings through sale of produce, fundraising, and programming.
In developing the Community Preservation proposal, the Conservators partnered with a grassroots coalition of Newton residents, who worked with professional farmers to develop an extremely credible farm operations proposal. This group has shown an ability to organize, to fundraise, and to build a base of knowledge and expertise necessary to launch a successful farm operation. This Newton Community Farm group is currently in the process of incorporating and obtaining 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. One possibility is that the city will select this group to operate the farm. Alternatively, this group may play a supporting role through fundraising and volunteering, a role similar to that of the Friends of the Newton Free Library. The Newton Community Farm group has prepared a Farm Status Report with more details on the current situation.
The Newton Conservators is committed to helping the Newton Community Farm Group get off to a strong start. To this end, we have pledged financial support to this group and have also agreed to accept and hold donations while this fledgling non-profit organization obtains its 501(c)3 status. A farm cannot operate without tools, equipment, and supplies. Now is the time to get the farm off to a strong start by providing funds for farm start-up costs, development of educational programs, and basic building maintenance.
We Need Your Support
Four generous Newton residents have offered a $15,000 Challenge Grant to the Newton Community Farm group. This means that the first $15,000 in donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar! But it also means that we can’t claim this gift unless other generous residents make contributions up to the amount of the Challenge Grant.
We urge you to support the farm today by writing a fully tax-deductible check, payable to Newton Conservators, Inc. Be sure to write “farm” on the check memo line and the Newton Conservators will hold these funds in a designated account on behalf of the Newton Community Farm Group, pending that group’s incorporation as a non-profit. Please mail checks to us at PO Box 590011, Newton Centre, MA 02459.
We also want to take a moment to thank the Ledgebrook Condominium Association, abutters to the Angino Farm, who have also pledged substantial financial support to the Newton Community Farm group.
Jon Regosin and Doug Dickson