Farm Advisory Looking Towards Spring

Farm Advisory members Thursday evening, January 27, 2022, considered the use of a quarter of an acre to Diana Philips of Happy Goats Farm. Phillips, whose farm is located at 400 Norfolk Street, said she runs a summer camp and would like the use of the property for a satellite operation for the growing of vegetables. The program has kids from age eight to thirteen. The program at the Rogers Road property would run a few hours each morning from June 27th until August 19th. Chairperson Kris Westland, who joined the meeting via Zoom, reminded Philips that she would need fencing to keep the critters at bay. Philips who would do a no-till soil operation and envisions bringing in compost to amend the soil. There was also a discussion about a port-o-potty. Board members agreed to the use of the property and will work out the details in an upcoming meeting.

When the discussion came around to the sale of seedlings in the spring, it was noted that Upswing Farm would be selling their seedlings at the farm, which Westland explained are ordered online. At this point Andy Reseska, who had joined the meeting earlier, questioned how much Upswing Farm was paying to distribute their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) at the farm. Upswing had been located in town and farmed on the Holliston/Ashland line but that property was sold to Out Post Farm last year.

Upswing is now located in Pepperell Massachusetts. Westland explained that we were helping them out during their transition, but Upswing had paid their rent with in-kind donations. Reseska stated that renting the property to Upswing who are “outsiders and not residents doesn’t seem right”. He felt that Upswing’s exclusive use of the property didn’t create a level playing field and was taking away from Holliston Agriculture. Reseska stated that he is an associate member of the town’s Agricultural Commission but wasn’t speaking for them. Westland said she understood Reseska’s concerns and would be happy to meet with the Agricultural Commission.

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Bobby Blair

5 Comments

  1. Mark Halstead on January 30, 2022 at 12:45 pm

    As a member of the Upswing Farm CSA, and knowing a bit about their situation and operation, I urge Holliston to continue to help them as we can. They have continued to go (way) out of their way to serve their Holliston area CSA customers after their hope of setting up their farm IN Holliston was dashed. It should definitely be a level playing field in Holliston. However, I think we should do whatever we can to support any young family that has decided to go into farming, regardless of where the town lines are.



  2. Lixy Carey on January 30, 2022 at 2:44 pm

    The owners of Upswing Farm are good people who deserve consideration. They are not “outsiders” and I understand they have a strong following from the Ashland Farmers market.



  3. Andy Reseska on January 30, 2022 at 9:35 pm

    To be clear I never called them “outsiders”, Hats off to them! they should be commended for being able to buy a farm in such a short time and grow there operation. It takes a lot of grit to be in any type of farming these days.
    What I am addressing is the appearance of a different standard and conflict of interest.
    1) Holliston has a farmers Market on Sundays at set times. Vendors (farmers) abide by rules and regulations and fees set forth by the market. Why can’t Upswing participate at that market? they are given use of a town owned asset on there schedule competing with other farms that have paid taxes that contributed to the purchase of the community farm.

    2) seedling sales? both by Upswing and the community Farm?. Holliston has numerous farmstands that offer seedlings as well as bedding plants in the spring available for purchase seven days a week. These sales represent the first main cash flow of the year for our Holliston farms.
    Should a town owned asset be used to take away income from these taxpaying farms that maintain open agricultural land that Holliston values?

    I think we can all agree that supporting local agriculture makes sense in numerous ways, Farms in Massachusetts have been given support and relief from taxes and other financial obligations such as farm plates, chapter 61a real estate values, overtime exemptions ,Hour of services rules,etc.
    The point I’m making, is as the Holliston Community farm develops itself it should be in keeping with the stated objective as described on the town website, and not as a publicly funded competitor against a sector of our society (our farms)that we say we value.

    Again, I have absolutely no personal problem with Upswing Farm, I am not effected by their use of the HCF, But I do believe the Holliston Agricultural Commission needs to be a voice to promote and protect the interests of Holliston agricultural operations and the impact that the Holliston Community farm’s operations have on their individual businesses.



  4. Daniel Alfred on January 31, 2022 at 5:54 pm

    Our Community Farm is a magnificent asset to the Town and an asset in which the Town’s taxpayers (through CPC funds) have invested a significant amount of money (purchased in 2014 for $588,000 with an additional $52,100 invested for upkeep in May 2021). Upswing Farm, through no fault of its own, was unfortunately unable to obtain land in town but have decided to remain active participants in the town through their crop share. I am not sure why anyone would have a real issue with this as long as we grant other farms a similar opportunity. I understand why the farmers market may seem like a plausible alternative, but I am not entirely sure it is the best venue for distributing significant amounts of weekly crop share produce.

    What concerns me about this entire conversation is that it appears that we are providing private businesses the ability to use a taxpayer owned property for profit without paying even a nominal fee towards future upkeep of this wonderful asset. When the AgCom first presented the opportunity to purchase the farm to the finance committee and then to town meeting, they told us that it would become a self-sustaining entity and that it would require no additional town funding. This has already proven to be inaccurate given the additional monies approved at last May’s town meeting. Regardless of where the business comes from, there should be a fee schedule in place for payments that go into an already existing revolving account that can be used to maintain the property. At the same time, should individuals or businesses wish to put on free community events, those fees should be waived. To be clear, I am not suggesting large and onerous fees but simply a modest amount that will help maintain the farm for years to come and also levels to playing field for all businesses which wish to utilize our town asset for monetary gains. I understand that farms are allowed to exchange services but this system alone is clearly not working for our Community Farm.

    I would hope that the Farm Advisory would work with the AgCom and the other interested parties in town (Select Board and Town Administrator?) to put together a plan that puts the farm on a self-sustaining path that will ensure its viability for decades to comes regardless of the town’s ability or willingness to continue funding improvements and upkeep.

    Please note that while I am a member of the Finance Committee these are my personal opinions and not those of the Finance Committee.



  5. Kriss Westland, Chair on February 1, 2022 at 4:48 pm

    The Holliston Community Advisory Committee has been tasked with overseeing the property in order to make it a viable asset to the community. As such, the committee is always open to any suggestions for such uses. This is a new and evolving asset. Regarding comments about usage and revenue, we are in the process of establishing a fee schedule to apply in a fair and consistent manner based on relevant use models.

    The CPC funding is being used to improve the offerings related to the pen space aspect of this property and the Committee greatly appreciates the support of the Town in their approval.

    Farming and maintaining an agriculturally viable property is not known to be a profitable economic sector without grants and other assistance. The Friends of The Holliston Community Farm holds fundraising events such as seedling sales, Haunted Walks, and the newly added First Night Bonfire in order to maintain and help improve the property. The Friends of the Holliston Community Farm is a 501(c)3 organization and coexists similarly to the Friends of the Rail Trail, Friends of the Library, Friends of the Senior Center, etc.. Your support is appreciated!

    The Holliston Community Farm Advisory Committee holds open meetings and welcomes the public to attend.



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