An up-close look at an heirloom apple tree at Walt’s Farm and Orchard on Briggs Road by Greg Stone

Westport Land Conservation Trust (WLCT) is partnering with the Town of Westport to protect Walt’s Farm and Orchard on Briggs Road. This 12-acre local landmark includes an orchard, single family house, and open farm fields in the north end of Westport. Walt, the former owner, produced a variety of vegetables and fruit on the property for decades.

Brian Valcourt, Westport Selectmen describes Walt’s as a “a small neighborhood farm with a large impact on the community”. Generations of kids visited his fruit stand over the years and according to Valcourt, Walt’s “is part of the fabric of our community.”

 

The Walt’s Farm and Orchard property was enrolled in Chapter 61A Program, a real estate tax program that reduces a landowner’s real estate taxes if land of a certain size is actively farmed. If an owner sells the property while enrolled, the municipality has the right to step-in to purchase and protect it. The 61A program requires that these properties stay in agriculture.

The Town of Westport exercised its rights under the Chapter 61A Program on January 19, 2021 and chose to partner with WLCT to ensure the property’s protection and continued farming, as required by the 61A program. WLCT has taken on the work to purchase the property, protect it with restrictions to keep it in farming, and to sell it to a buyer who will continue its agricultural use.

A rusty old harrow lines a woods road at Walt’s Farm by Greg Stone 

“Walt’s Farm is a cherished landmark on Briggs Road and WLCT was thrilled when the Town approached us about the opportunity to protect it,” states Ross Moran, executive director of WLCT. “While relatively small for a farm, it includes productive agricultural soils and an established orchard. It is the type and size of farm that is in high-demand for local food production, and the size makes it affordable for a farm family.”

WLCT continues to work on raising private funding and the townspeople will be asked to support the project with $150,000 from the Community Preservation Act Fund at its annual Town Meeting in June. WLCT will set a resale price based on the value as a restricted farm with a small house.

WLCT purchased the property on April 1st, completing the first step of this effort. Now WLCT is finalizing the restrictions, with a goal to sell the farm by July 2021. WLCT and the Town will co-hold a restriction preventing subdivision and further development while allowing the existing modest house to be renovated or expanded. Over the next few months WLCT will restore the fields and prepare them to be cultivated by the new owner.

“We have received positive feedback from the neighbors and community at large, “states Moran. “People fondly remember Walt and are excited to see the revival of this farm.”

If you are interested in supporting this project, please contact WLCT at (508) 636-9228 or its website WestportLandTrust.org.

While relatively small for a farm, it includes productive agricultural soils and an established orchard. It is the type and size of farm that is in high-demand for local food production, and the size makes it affordable for a farm family

Ross Moran

Executive Director, Westport Land Conservation Trust