Vision for West Falmouth farm includes 'edible trail,' pollinator habitat

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FALMOUTH — Creating a pollinator habitat, planting fruit trees, developing an “edible walking trail” and organic crop production are all part of the vision for the 62-acre Hurricane Valley Farm in West Falmouth.

The concept design for the farm, which is owned by the Falmouth Land Trust, was unveiled Jan. 18 at St. Mary’s Church.

The land trust is leasing the property to Cultivating Community, which is charged with bringing the farm back into active agricultural use and opening the land up to the public.

The land trust hopes the farm will become “an incredibly rich and productive place and a true community treasure,” said Jennifer Grimm, the trust’s executive director. “We’re extremely excited to be partnering with Cultivating Community, (furthering) its food security and social justice mission and connecting people with this land.

“This farm has an amazing history and (will now tell) a story of resiliency and restoration.”

Grimm said the meeting attrached a “lovely mix of farmers, folks from Portland and Falmouth and supporting organizations. … It was a really interesting cross-section and it was heartening to see” how many people care about the future of Hurricane Valley Farm.

Grimm said the next step in the process is wrapping up the public input and then creating a phased plan that outlines “what can reasonably be accomplished in the first couple years.”

She said the first items to be addressed include amending the soils on the farm, mapping water resources and planting cover crops.

“We have to start modestly and work at a scale that’s compatible with the available resources,” Grimm said. In all, she anticipates it will be at least 10 years before the long-term vision for the farm is fully realized.

“We have to be realistic in terms of the progress. There’s a lot involved and the plan is really extensive,” she said. The overall goal is to create a place that “truly encompasses public use, including food production and education and outreach.”

Grimm said plans for the farm “strike an excellent balance between keeping the property open and protecting and restoring the ecology. There will be nurseries, terraces, row crops and some animals too. The mix is really rich” and diverse.

The farm manager at Cultivating Community is currently living on the property, Grimm said, adding that having someone on site will be key, especially in terms of overseeing farm operations.

This is the first time the Falmouth Land Trust has entered into a tenant-landlord relationship like the one with Cultivating Community, but Grimm hopes it can become a model for other conservation projects in Falmouth and elsewhere.

She said the land trust intends to be “active partners” with Cultivating Community and its responsibility as the landowner is ensuring the “property is used appropriately and is being used for agriculture.”

There is already a trail system on the farm that Grimm said would continue to be maintained and likely extended.

She said the trust wants to make sure the public is welcome because “the property was conserved with the help of the community and the town.”

The land trust received $400,000 from the town to assist with the purchase of the farm and then raised another $300,000 through the generosity of the wider community, Grimm said.

On its website, Cultivating Community says, “We envision this site bringing together the best of traditional and emerging growing techniques, including organic crop production, small-scale livestock production, pollinator habitat development, perennial fruit tree plantings, and permaculture food forests.”

“We hope to embrace this lovely 62-acre site as a powerful engine to increase access to community participation, food-production, and healthy foods for all,” the website adds.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Interested people gathered at St. Mary’s Church in Falmouth Jan. 18 to learn more about plans for Hurricane Valley Farm off Gray Road.