News & Views

We have done it!

Five years ago the NACF board had two enormous and persistent challenges even after 10 years of accomplishment. We had a $400,000 mortgage obligation to discharge, and we had an obligation to our lessee farmers to stabilize (and ideally enhance) the crumbling buildings — the farmhouse and barns — that we inherited.

Now, five years later, with the wonderful support of our community, we have fully retired the debt on the land and we have completed a major renovation of the farm house. Furthermore, at our June fundraising event, we raised the “last dollar” to pay for all this.

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Over 80 supporters attending our June 16th Sunday Brunch fundraiser. We raised over $11,000 “in the room” and a further $9,000 from others unable to attend, thereby achieving our goal. The farmhouse renovation is fully paid for.

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So we now have a strong and stable basis to support our lessee farmers who themselves have made (and are making) substantial investments in the farming infrastructure: the fencing, well and irrigation piping, a large PV array, the farm store, and now a new biomass boiler plant to heat their greenhouses independent of fossil fuel.

It is with considerable pride that we can now report all this — that we represent a successful model for other communities to follow, and that NACF can now move on to focusing on farm community activities like our annual strawberry and harvest festivals, food and farm education activities, and much more.

There will still be continuing stewardship obligations and NACF will continue modest, periodic financial support of our lessee farmers in major maintenance work — the deed restriction to ensure continuing affordability necessitates that.

But NACF’s primary focus can now shift to pursuing the vision of developing and nurturing a thriving farm community, for which we welcome your ideas and involvement.

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The farmhouse exterior now completely restored with new roofing and siding. The interior is now divided into two separate dwelling units (the new side entry porch shown is to the front Unit). And we have added a separate Studio accommodation for a farm manager for a total of seven bedrooms — three more than before.

The Farm Manager Studio as it now looks 95% completed.

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What a difference! 

 

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THANK YOU to over 40 volunteers whose accumulated 3,000 hours of effort over nine months from August of last year was the backbone of the successful renovation.

THANK YOU ALL!

And of course we look forward to your continued participation!

For information or to volunteer in the future, PLEASE CONTACT Bruce Coldham at bcoldham155@comcast.net
or call 413-348-6706

NACF supports the “Common Good”

commonlogoThe North Amherst Community Farm Board of Directors is pleased to be able to support the Common Good Project, which is a local effort to promote a Common Good Economy—a democratic, community-centered financial system the puts people and planet first, so that everyone has enough to eat, a home, healthcare, satisfying work, and a livable world.

The Common Good payment card which may be used at Simple Gifts farmstand generates funds for our community’s projects every time you use it.  Members decide together what to fund. It’s easy to use, easy to accept as payment. And there are no fees for either the buyer or the businesses.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Open an account online at CommonGood.earth
  2. Put some money in it.
  3. Use your card for purchases at Simple Gifts and a growing number of participating businesses.

Simple….

Like a bank, our community can invest money held in the accounts.  Unlike a bank however, the members decide together how the money is used for community projects and the common good.

The idea is to shift power from big business and big government back to communities, where we know and care more.

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Jeremy Barker Plotkin describes Simple Gifts as a community farm. “The primary function is to produce food,” he assures, but says that “where we are and how we do things brings people together.” Located on 38 acres owned by the North Amherst Community Farm land trust, Simple Gifts serves as a “community hub,” hosting various events – a monthly “front porch jam,” a late season harvest festival, and regular farm tours, among others – with the goal of connecting people to one another and to their food. Simple Gifts also supports the local farming community by maintaining an active apprenticeship program, which Jeremy says will “train the next generation of farmers.”

To further this goal of creating a strong local community, Simple Gifts joined Common Good at the end of 2018 and is proud to accept Common Good in their farm store. “What makes Common Good different,” Jeremy says, is that “you can cash out whenever you want. And the other thing is that you’re creating a pot of money that can be lent out for community projects.”

You can find Simple Gifts’ produce, plus products from neighboring farms, in the Simple Gifts Farm Store, open weekdays from 10-7 and weekends from 8-7. Find out more about the farm, events, or the Simple Gifts CSA by visiting their website or by email at simplegifts@gmail.com.

Common Good Fund supports local projects – please join!

 

By FRAN RYAN Daily Hampshire Gazette –  Published: 3/3/2019 8:03:42 PM

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NOTE:  Simple Gifts Farmstand in North Amherst accepts the Common Good card.  By joining the Common Good Fund project, you will help us invest in local projects in Amherst like the one described below!  Please join here:

https://new.commongood.earth/signup


CUMMINGTON — Nutwood Farm will soon have a solar powered pump to run its well, thanks to a $1,000 grant from Greenfield Common Good, a nonprofit non-bank financial institution that supports social change and community empowerment.

“We applied last summer and we were very excited when we heard we got it,” farm owner Seva Tower said.

In December, Common Good selected 14 projects to receive $19,000 in grants, loans, and equity investments. The projects that received funding focused on topics such as food systems, sustainability and renewable energy, small business development, social justice and the arts.

“We have been thinking a lot about water, and while we are blessed with water in the Northeast, it is still a precious resource,” Tower said. “Climate chaos also makes things a lot more challenging, and a solar water pump on the well will ensure that we can still pump water if the electricity goes out.”

Tower owns the farm with partner Kalyan Uprichard. Utilizing a swale and berm system, the couple has planted 350 nut trees to produce hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts, hickory nuts and butternuts.

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Seva Tower and Kalyan Uprichard with their planted nut trees on their farm, Nutwood Farm in Cummington. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By growing these trees sustainably and supplying nuts locally, Tower and Uprichard hope to help shift the local food system toward “regenerative agriculture and develop long-term food sovereignty and bold economic sufficiency.”

Tower says that they have received a great deal of support from the community and people in the region. She noted that it has been difficult to secure loans from traditional banks and praised Common Good for helping their farm.

“It’s a small amount but really useful, and it is so refreshing because we have struggled to get financing from traditional institutions,” she said.

Common Good is a system where members use credits instead of dollars at participating retailers. Those dollars then sit in a pool that builds as more people use the Common Good card. The pool eventually grows to the point where the funds can be dispersed for projects that benefit the local community.

“The Common Good is a pretty incredible organization and it is amazing to have them in this area,” Tower said.

Original Post

Go-Fund-Me (to restore the farm house)

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You are invited to help us finish restoring this historic farmhouse!  Click here:

https://www.gofundme.com/help-restore-the-historic-farmhouse

The North Amherst Community Farm is in the process of restoring the original farmhouse that has been part of the property since the 1830’s. The history of the farm house offers an interesting view of how farming in the Pioneer Valley has changed over the past 200 years. Initially a grain and livestock farm, after the Civil War the farm shifted to raising meat and vegetables for local sales and shipping. In the 20th century ownership of the farm passed from the Ingram-Dickinson’s to the Dziekanowski’s, with the latter developing a dairy operation.

In 2005, the Dziekanowski’s sold the property to the North Amherst Community Farm, a non-profit entity formed to protect the land from development. NACF now leases the property to Simple Gifts Farm, managed by Jeremy Barker-Plotkin and David Tepfer. Simple Gifts is a leader in the local organic farming sector, growing food for the local community and maintaining the land and buildings in active farm use.

The restored farmhouse will serve as affordable, comfortable housing for farm apprentices and future farm managers for many years to come. 

Almost one-third of New England farms are managed by farmers over 65 years of age. To preserve the distinctive character of our region, strengthen local food security and continue our farming traditions, we need to cultivate the next generation of farmers! The state of Massachusetts, and the town of Amherst, have done a good job of preserving farmland, but housing costs can be another major barrier for young people seeking to get into farming. This project will help address that need.

The restoration of the NACF farmhouse is being completed with the help of Community Preservation Act funding from the Town of Amherst. A critical first step was to hire a historic buildings consultant, Gregory Farmer, to assist us in researching the previous 180 years in the life of this important farm structure.

We then developed detailed plans for the restoration and remodeling of the farmhouse. It is a major undertaking, with a total budget of around $400,000. When finished it will:

– provide a functional, affordable farmhouse able to accommodate multiple occupancy scenarios (two separate living units with a total of four bedrooms

– achieve full compliance with all building codes

– reduce future maintenance expenses to a manageable level

– restore the building to its rightful place as an attractive presence on North Pleasant Street.

For more on this story and pictures of the progress we are making, please continue to look at additional blog posts below!

 Existing community support for this project includes: 

•    The Town of Amherst

•    The Dziekanowski Family

•    Interfaith Housing Corporation of Amherst

•    Kestrel Land Trust

•    Habitat for Humanity

•    Smith Vocational High School

•    + more than 700 individual members of the local community

Through both financial gifts, in-kind donations, and volunteer labor from these groups, we are on track to complete this project by the spring of 2019.

We need to raise $10,000 to finish the job and you can help!

Keep scrolling down for pictures and progress reports! 

North Amherst Farm House being restored

The North Amherst Community Farm is committed to restoring a historical farmhouse closer to its original 1830’s look!   And you can help (see below)!

Here is what we are up to!

On August 14th a group of volunteer workers began removing the old original wood clapboards to make way for new, and far more durable, fiber-cement siding that will save the farm maintenance cost long-term. That is the start of a nine month long project that will substantially renovate the farmhouse inside and out.

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The last of the original siding— volunteers David Dunn, Rob Steinberg, Gene Palmer, and Bruce Griffin taking down the siding and guttering on the south side of the farmhouse.

We have organized and committed a dozen or more specialist sub-contractors — electricians, plumbers, painters, roofer, masons, insulators and more — to a work schedule lasting through the coming winter, and we have raised most (but not all) of the funds needed to pay for it.

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A group of community volunteers assisted Dave on the tractor to complete the back-filling and preparing for the concrete floor slab.

Most especially, we have attracted, 30 or more skilled and semi-skilled volunteer workers to come on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and some Saturdays for the past four weeks — and we have done a lot of work . Ever hopeful, we imagine that we can keep this up for the next eight months. This is really a splendid example of community participation — and it will be a lasting legacy.


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Farmer, Dave Tepfer, beginning the excavation of the foundation trenching under the rear shed. It’s tight in there with all of that temporary support structure.

Over the summer we obtained building permits and resolved permission to formally divide the farmhouse into a duplex of two independent dwelling units together with a private “studio suite” for a future, resident farm manager. We managed to secure comprehensive workers compensation insurance for our volunteer workforce.

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Two Bruces begin to seal up the eastern basement bulkhead opening using salvaged stone — actually, Bruce Griffin is the mason and Bruce Coldham is supplying the mortar and the odd piece of rock


We still need your help to complete this project!

Here is how you can help!  Either:

  1. email a pledged contribution to Bruce Coldham at bcoldham155@comcast.net
    or call Bruce at 413-348-6706 or,
  2. mail your contribution directly to  NACF at PO Box 9648, North Amherst, MA 01059,
  3. or donate online at Network for Good at 

  https://northamherstcommunityfarm.com/support-nacf/


 

Progress on historical North Amherst farm house

In mid-August we worked three days removing almost all of the original clapboard siding, and completed the  demolition of the lower level of the rear shed — ready for excavation for the new foundation.

Thanks to all of our wonderful volunteers!  

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Installing temporary supporting beams before we complete the demotion of the lower section — ready for the excavation of foundation trenches next week.

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Progress!

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The old siding is coming down!

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Watermelon break — Dave Poser and Gene Palmer after removing the siding from the wall beyond.

 


Please help us finish this project and either:

  1. email a pledged contribution to Bruce Coldham at bcoldham155@comcast.net
    or call Bruce at 413-348-6706 or,
  2. mail your contribution directly to  NACF at PO Box 9648, North Amherst, MA 01059,
  3. or donate online at Network for Good at 

  https://northamherstcommunityfarm.com/support-nacf/

Charles Mann on “two farms”

Charles Mann, author of The Wizard and the Prophet and best selling-book, 1491, compares two types of farms in America at a fundraising event for NACF.

The breakfast meeting introduced participants to our latest project, to preserve our 1830’s farmhouse.  At present, we have a design for the remodeling, we have contractors lined up to do the work that will restore the farmhouse to its 1830’s appearance, and we have a talented bunch of volunteer workers, many of whom worked on the construction of the adjacent Habitat for Humanity duplex house.

All we need are funds that NACF itself has committed to raising to move the process  along.  So the fundraising event held at the Pioneer Valley Cohousing common house on June 30th was  essential to beginning the work.

Our goal for the event is $10,000 and you can still help!

Please help us finish this project and either:

  1. email a pledged contribution to Bruce Coldham at bcoldham155@comcast.net
    or call Bruce at 413-348-6706 or,
  2. mail your contribution directly to  NACF at PO Box 9648, North Amherst, MA 01059,
  3. or donate online at Network for Good at 

  https://northamherstcommunityfarm.com/support-nacf/

Help us restore this 1830’s farmhouse in North Amherst, MA

After two years of planning we are ready to start work renovating the farmhouse….

but first we need to raise a few bucks – and you can help!

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We have successfully raised 90% of the $420,000 goal needed to convert the farmhouse into durably useful housing for farmers and farm laborers. This remaining 10% is the  “NACF share” of the total.

We have a well resolved design for the remodeling, we have contractors lined up to do the work that will restore the farmhouse to its 1830’s appearance, and we have a talented bunch of volunteer workers, many of whom worked on the construction of the adjacent Habitat for Humanity duplex house.  All we need are funds that NACF itself has committed to raising to start the process (Town funds and other funds that we have secured flow after work is completed).  So the fundraising event that we are holding at the Pioneer Valley Cohousing common house on Saturday morning (11AM until noon), June 30th is essential to beginning the work.  We have approximately $20,000 of our $30,000 goal promised — we are looking for another $10,000 on the day.

Please help us finish this project and either:

  1. email a pledged contribution to Bruce Coldham at bcoldham155@comcast.net
    or call Bruce at 413-348-6706 or,
  2. mail your contribution directly to  NACF at PO Box 9648, North Amherst, MA 01059,
  3. or donate online at Network for Good at 

  https://northamherstcommunityfarm.com/support-nacf/


WHY RENOVATING THE FARMHOUSE IS AS IMPORTANT AS SAVING THE FARMLAND

We understand that some think that the major work has been done; the debt on the farm is extinguished and the long-term lease with Simple Gifts Farm is in place.  But, whereas, the $1.2M campaign was to retire the debt so that the farmland is owned by the community forever, our current campaign is to ensure that the farm can be sustainably managed with clean, safe, simple housing for the farm labor necessary to work the land and provide food for hundreds of people. The farmhouse allows the farm to operate the way we want it to operate — as a “community farm”. That is why it is as important.

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Some volunteer workers already underway demolishing the dis-used rear chimney

SO FAR WE HAVE SECURED FUNDING AS FOLLOWS:

  • $120,000 commitment from Simple Gifts Farm as their share of the work
  • $130,000 from the Town of Amherst CPA (specifically for the exterior restoration)
  • $20,000 from the Interfaith Housing Corp. of Amherst
  • $15,000 as a “go-ahead” challenge for our June 30th NACF ‘Brunch’ fundraising event
  • Another $15,000 “go-ahead” challenge for our June 30th 2019 NACF ‘Brunch’ fundraising event
  • $8,000± (probable) in incentive funding from Mass Save for insulation and efficiency upgrading
  • $60,000 (estimated) in volunteer labor commitment so far
  • $10,000 (estimated) in volunteer labor commitment from Smith Vocational School Plumbing program

That tallies to $378,000 secured (or probable) to date.  Now we need help from our friends and community.  Please donate to help us finish the job! 

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Exploratory demolition proceeds recently to expose the historic structure of the “rear shed” — an original, un-heated part of the farmhouse. This will be renovated as a separate “Farm Manager’s Suite”  over the course of this coming year.

PLEASE CONTACT Bruce Coldham at bcoldham155@comcast.net
or call 413-348-6706
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS

Restoring our 1830’s farmhouse

Work has begun to restore the farmhouse at 1089 North Pleasant St, in North Amherst MA to something closer to its original form.  Here are a few pictures of your community farm members at work!

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David and Donnie cleared out most of the basement — including demolishing the wood root cellar structure. 

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We successfully took down the rear chimney down through the roof and we will continue the demolition down to the ground.

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We still have more to do!

Now the backstory
With the land debt retired and a long-term lease finalized, we are moving to put the farmhouse into a fully functional, durable state so that our lessee, Simple Gifts Farm, can accept full maintenance responsibility. Using the Community Preservation Act funds from the Town of Amherst, we engaged a historic buildings consultant, Gregory Farmer, to help us understand the past life of our farmhouse.

We then completed a restoration and remodeling design. It involves a great deal of work — we are estimating around $400,000 — but completing it will achieve the following:

A: providing an enduringly useful and affordable farmhouse, able to accommodate multiple occupancy scenarios into the distant future.
B: adding two bedrooms, and achieving full compliance with building codes for multi-family accommodations
C: reducing the maintenance cost to a manageable level.
D: restoring the building to being an attractive presence on North Pleasant Street.
E: improving the building to provide healthy, comfortable accommodations for its occupants.

The cost of the renovation will be shared among several partners including the Town of Amherst, Simple Gifts Farm, local volunteers and donors.  If you would like to make a donation or participate in one of our upcoming fundraisers, please contact Bruce Coldham at bcoldham155@comcast.net or call 413-348-6706.

A North Amherst Farm Story – Part II

For Part I of this story see – A North Amherst Farm Story – Part I

As related in Part I of this story, the Dziekanowski heirs sold the farm property to the North Amherst Community Farm for perpetual preservation as farmland. A portion of the land is leased to Simple Gifts Farm which operates an agricultural training program for young farmers and houses student farmers and apprentices in the old farmhouse.

In 2004 the North Amherst Community Farm Inc. (NACF), a non-profit community organization, was formed to take advantage of an opportunity to preserve this 30 acre farm parcel as permanently and affordably available for farming. With the support of the Dziekanowski/Jekanowski family (who accepted the NACF offer over a larger offer from a housing developer), NACF purchased the farm, including the farmhouse at 1089 North Pleasant St. and a historic dairy barn, for $1.2 million.

Funds for the purchase came from the State Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program ($320,000); from the Town of Amherst Community Preservation Act (CPA) program ($100,800); from the sale of three strategically excised housing lots ($320,000); from a first round of community fund raising ($115,000); and with a $400,000 loan from the Jekanowski family (a vendor loan with a ten year term). A second round of community fundraising from 2012 through 2016 was successful and the mortgage debt was fully retired by the end of 2016.

On September 20, 2016, the North Amherst Community Farm Board of Directors and friends celebrated by “burning the mortgage.”

 

NACF never intended to manage its own farming operation. Rather, we resolved to find a lease farmer who would commit to using the farmland to grow food for local consumption. Further, we wanted a farmer who would use organic farming methods and who would support NACF in creating a “farm community” around the land. In the Simple Gifts Farm duo of Jeremy Barker-Plotkin and Dave Tepfer, NACF found such a prospect – and even before the farm purchase was fully finalized, a Letter of Intent between SGF and NACF was exchanged, and SGF set about its farming operation.  Their first productive season was 2006.

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Dave, Jeremy (center) and apprentice farmers at Simple Gifts Farm

The aspirations / expectations of both parties were:

  1. That this would be a long-term relationship;
  2. That the SGF would establish a mixed vegetable organic farming operation with a Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) component, and a farmworker apprentice program to train future farm owner / managers, such as themselves;
  3. That SGF would be able to accumulate equity by purchasing the “improvements” – i.e., existing farmhouse and 5 existing barn buildings, – and by investing in improvements (fences, water supply, etc.) that they would own;
  4. But that SGF would not accumulate so much equity as to make it overly burdensome for the farming operation to be sold to a future farming enterprise when the SGF principals chose to retire.

All of the above were formalized with an interim lease that was replaced with a 50-year lease with options to renew in 2017 when all debt obligations on the land and farmhouse were discharged.  Now the farmers have complete security whilst retaining affordability for the future farmers to whom Simple Gifts will eventually transfer the lease.

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For more on the history of farming in North Amherst, MA see: History.