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Hall Tavern Farm owners seek land preservation

Recorder/Paul Franz
Jay Healy and his wife Bunny, Win Healy and his daughter Sarah Middleton and her daughter Luca Middleton, 2, and Jared Bellows, who is the farm manager at Hall Tavern Farm in Charlemont.

Recorder/Paul Franz Jay Healy and his wife Bunny, Win Healy and his daughter Sarah Middleton and her daughter Luca Middleton, 2, and Jared Bellows, who is the farm manager at Hall Tavern Farm in Charlemont.

CHARLEMONT —The Hall Tavern Tree Farm has been a part of the town’s landscape for almost 100 years, and the family that owns the sprawling, 500-acre farm is hoping it will always remain farmland and forest.

The Healy family is seeking to sell off the development rights to its land for $1.1 million, through a Landscape Partnership Program grant and a state Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR).

Jay Healy, who owns the farm with his brother, Winston, and sister Cynthia (Healy) Ellis, said the farm has been in the Healy family since the 1920s. In its early days, the forested region beyond the fields and farmstead was managed by “benign neglect,” according to the grant application. But the Healys managed the forest and in 1949, the farm was certified as “Massachusetts Tree Farm Number 2.”

Today the farm produces 50,000 MBF (1,000 board-feet) of high-quality flooring, 100 cords per year of firewood, 10,000 bales of hay and 120 gallons of maple syrup.

Jay Healy was in the state Legislature when Massachusetts was the first state in the U.S. to adopt an Agricultural Preservation Restriction program, to buy up development rights of farms like Hall Tavern.

“We’re getting on in age, and we feel it’s important to have the farm sustained for a long period of time,” said Healy, who is also a former state commissioner of agriculture. “It is a nice program, in terms of keeping agricultural land affordable for future generations of farmers. New farmers can afford to buy an APR farm more easily than they can afford a farm where they have to pay top dollar.

“The main thing we want to do, as siblings, is have it stay a farm for a long period of time.”

He said the payment for the development rights will go into an endowment fund, so that the accrued interest can be used for farm maintenance and equipment to keep the farm profitable and sustainable.

Healy said if the family were interested in making money, they would just sell the land.

“We’re going to reinvest it in the farm, so it will not slowly evaporate,” Healy said. “We haven’t quite been able to do what we would like, because with any farm, you’re land rich. Keeping the farm is something we’re proud of.”

Currently the land is being surveyed, to make sure that the house lots are excluded from the APR land.

Also, this week, the town’s selectmen voted 2 to 1 to contribute $3,700 from its $11,000 Open Space Account, for the acquisition of the development rights to the land. The dissenting voter, Selectman Vaughn Tower, questioned whether the state is buying up too much town land that might be needed someday for more growth and development.

Healy has said that preserving Hall Tavern Farm will help the town’s rural economy, because open space and forest land doesn’t require various town services that would come with more housing development, such as schools or more police protection.

He said keeping the land for open space, farming and forest is also good for the town’s image, as a scenic town with a lot of outdoor activities. A portion of the land, which abuts the Catamont State Forest, will be open to the public for recreational use.

Healy said his family has been working on this APR application for three years, and hopes to know by this summer whether their application will be approved.

The Franklin Land Trust has been helping them with this proposal.

The farm is named for Hall Tavern, which was built in the 1790s and which was on the farmland, until Route 2 was enlarged in the 1950s. “They were going to tear it down, so my father gave it to Henry Flynt Sr.” He said Hall Tavern is now part of Historic Deerfield Inc.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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