Conservators Seek to Acquire Angino Farm
When it rains, it pours-and fortunately, the availability of Community Preservation funds makes the Newton Conservators, working in close coordination with city government, a credible buyer of conservation property coming on line in Newton. Angino Farm is the latest in a string of properties that have long been on the Open Space Plan priority list to hit the market in the last year.
This new opportunity follows recent acquisitions of the Wilmerding and Forte properties (adjacent to Webster and Dolan Pond conservation areas, respectively) and the anticipated acquisition of Kesseler Woods in the Spring. Discussions regarding two other properties are also underway.
It’s frightening to think about where we’d be without the successful passage of the Community Preservation Act more than two years ago. A look at the transformation taking place on the south side of Andover Newton Hill provides a clue-devastation of the natural landscape for construction of mega-homes and townhouses. Fortunately, the timing of recent opportunities has fallen into line with the availability of CPA funds, making the city a contender. The Conservators can take credit for its leadership in the passage of CPA, along with developing the expertise over recent years to act as agent in the acquisition of these properties as they come onto the market.
Angino Farm is a 2.5 acre property at the corner of Winchester and Nahanton Streets. It is Newton ‘s last farm, operated until his death three years ago by Jerry Angino, who served as the truant officer for Newton Public Schools for many years. This much-loved Newton figure grew flowers and vegetables on this open parcel and his family farmed it before him. The property includes a Colonial-style home originally built in 1700, a barn and a shed. The Newton Historic Commission considers the house, barn and scenic vista to be historically significant.
Following his death, Jerry Angino’s sister, Rose Mitchell, lived in the house. After she died last year, the family decided to sell the property. The asking price is $3.5 million and the family has already turned down at least one offer. They and their broker are amenable to selling the property to the city by way of the Newton Conservators and a tentative offer has been accepted. As of this writing, the terms of a Purchase and Sale Agreement are being negotiated and will include two contingencies: that an independent appraisal be conducted to determine value of the property and that funding be arranged by June 1, 2004 .
The Conservators are funding an appraisal, with the expectation that we will be reimbursed through the Community Preservation Fund. Results are due by mid-March. Meanwhile, planning is underway to determine how the property would be used if purchased by the city. Possibilities on the table at this point include converting the house and/or the barn to two or more units of affordable housing, with the possibility of additional units if they are needed to make the project work. The 2344 square-foot, two-story house consists of nine rooms, with six bedrooms and two baths. It is in average condition and would need some work to make it useful as one or two units of housing. The barn is 900 square feet and it’s not clear yet whether it can be affordably converted for housing.
The parcel is zoned for single family housing (SR1, requiring 25,000 square feet per lot), and with 350 feet of frontage, the property could hypothetically be subdivided to accommodate three new houses in addition to the existing one by right. A significant constraint is that a culverted stream apparently runs under the property. This means that a substantial portion of the land may be protected under both city ordinance and state wetlands law, which could reduce the buildable area. In addition, considerable grade changes could be required, since most of the land sits well below the adjacent Nahanton and Winchester Streets. Grade changes of more than three feet require a special permit.
Newton Pride is interested in the property for a greenhouse to aid their work in beautifying city gardens and grounds. Other suggestions for the site include a community garden or farm and various educational programs. Additional ideas are welcome, but must get into the script immediately so that planning can hold to an extremely tight schedule.
That schedule calls for an application to be filed with the Community Preservation Committee by March 3. The CPC would then hold a public hearing on the proposal on March 31. Action by CPC and the Board of Aldermen must be completed by June 1.
A small group representing the various interests in the project has been assembled under the leadership of the Newton Conservators. Interested groups include Newton Housing Authority (with whom we worked on the Forte acquisition), CAN-DO (a local affordable housing developer), Newton Historic Commission, Newton Pride and the Conservation Commission. If you have ideas or wish to help with this effort, contact Duane Hillis, chair of the Newton Conservators Land Acquisition Committee.
Doug Dickson, with input from Duane Hillis
Photos by Doug Dickson
Angino Farm for Sale
The Newton Conservators offer for sale a 30,000-s.f. farmstead with an antique dwelling (part dating from the 1700s) and an antique barn at the corner of Winchester and Nahanton Streets in Newton. The parcel is part of the larger Angino Farm of about 100,000 square feet of land. The entire 100,000 square feet are offered for sale; 70,000 square feet that are in the farm field along Winchester Street are to be made subject to an Agricultural and Open Space Restriction that will limit this land’s use. The house will be made subject to a Historic Easement to prevent its removal.
Angino Farm is the last active farm in Newton. It has been fallow in recent years. The Conservators have the entire property under agreement for purchase. The Conservators seek a partner who would acquire the 30,000-square-foot portion of the site. Zoning is for single-family use and allows for up to three house lots on existing frontage. The house sits on one lot. The barn sits on another.
The Angino Farm is adjacent to the Ledgebrook Condominium, a high-quality condominium complex at which much of the land is restricted as open space. The Ledgebrook site is zoned for multi-family use. The land at Ledgebrook that is adjacent to Angino Farm is protected as open space. Winchester and Nahanton Streets both carry substantial traffic. The development land made available here at the Angino Farm is set back from the streets. Other than Ledgebrook, nearby sites include Nahanton Park (a large open space extending to the Charles River), the Wells Avenue office park, the CJP complex on Winchester Street, and the Charles River Country Club. Land along both streets in the immediate neighborhood is largely undeveloped open space.
Possible Uses of 30,000-s.f. Development Site
The 30,000-s.f. development site is capable of subdivision into as many as three house sites. The larger parcel contains just under 100,000 square feet. The zoning allows house lots with a minimum area of 25,000 square feet and allows development to a floor area ratio of up to .15:1. Thus, roughly 15,000 square feet of building can be developed, in three lots, with 5,000 square feet of building on each lot. The existing frontage is sufficient to meet minimum requirements. The Conservators would allow driveway easements to the building sites from the frontage.
Possible uses for the development land are as follows:
- 3 house lots
- 1 large estate-type lot
- place of worship
- multi-family (with zone change)
- congregate housing (with approvals of City)
Allowed and Prohibited Uses on Farm Land
Uses that are to be allowed on the farm land are as follows:
- grazing of sheep or horses
- fallow field
- meadow (mowed annually)
- other farm activities with approval of occupants of developed land
Uses that are to be prohibited on the farm land are as follows:
- application of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides
- applications and uses inconsistent with operation of an organic farm
- excavation other than soil tilling and planting
- construction of buildings
- construction of fences or walls other than a farm-style fence on the perimeter of the farm land
- keeping of noise-producing farm animals
- noise-producing farm activities (operation of heavy mechanized equipment)
- on-site open storage of farm equipment
- composting; stockpiling of soil or other farm materials
- activities and uses that are detrimental to the quiet enjoyment of the adjacent developed land
The asking price is $2,000,000. The Conservators seek offers at no less than $1,500,000. (The Conservators have the entire property under agreement for purchase at a higher price and would make up the price difference with City funding, through the Community Preservation Act.)
Timing of Offers
Offers are sought before May 22, 2004.
The Newton Conservators will evaluate offers in terms of price, the type and extent of development proposed, and the ability of a buyer to complete the transaction. The preferred partner is a conservation buyer paying $2,000,000 or more, one who would make use of the parcel as a single, oversized estate-type lot, confining development within the existing house and barn and, possibly, expanding the house with an addition in a farmhouse or barn style. A three-lot developer is also a good partner.
We would prefer a developer who would construct any new buildings in a farm building style. We seek to preserve views of the farmstead from the two streets. We would consider as a buyer a community group such as a school that would take part in the operation of the farm fields.
Angino Farm Partners Sought
The Angino Farm is a 100,000-s.f. property with an antique dwelling (part dating from the 1700s) and an antique barn at the corner of Winchester and Nahanton Streets in Newton. The farm is now for sale, and development of the entire site for housing is likely unless the Conservators can put together a plan to save it.
The Angino Farm is adjacent to the Ledgebrook Condominium, a high-quality condominium complex at which much of the land is restricted as open space. The land at Ledgebrook that is adjacent to Angino Farm is protected as open space. Nearby sites include Nahanton Park (a large open space extending to the Charles River), the Wells Avenue office park, the CJP complex on Winchester Street, and the Charles River Country Club. Land along both streets in the immediate neighborhood is largely undeveloped open space.
Angino Farm is the last active farm in Newton. It has been fallow in recent years. The Conservators have the entire property under agreement for purchase. The Conservators seek two partners who would work with us to preserve this property:
- a farm group to operate a farm on two acres, including a barn
- a conservation buyer for the existing farmhouse
Proposals are needed by June 30, 2004.
The Farm Group
A field of about two acres is available, together with an antique barn. In the past, the farm was used for raising corn, vegetables, and flowers. It has not been in active use in recent years. The farm sits next to a farmhouse that is to be sold separately, to a single-family buyer, an investor, or a low-income housing group.
The Conservators are looking for a group with experience in farming. We are looking for a group that will operate the farm as a single operation (versus parceling the site into smaller, individual plots). We want to see the Angino Farm operated as a real, active farm.
Any of these activities would be possible:
- growing of vegetables
- fruit orchard
- horse pasture
- keeping chickens, goats, farm animals that may be allowed under zoning
- organic farm
- growing flowers
The house is an antique single-family dwelling in fair condition. It has about 2,000 square feet of living area. The house is capable of expansion and is to be sold with about 15,000 square feet of land. The house has good potential for historic restoration.
The house is adjacent to the farm fields of the Angino Farm, which are to be used as an operating farm. The farm surrounds the site on two sides. On the third is the Ledgebrook Condominium, an attractive complex on ground that rises to the east. The condominium buildings are separated from the Angino farmhouse by condominium land that is under a conservation restriction, preventing its future development. Thus, the Angino farmhouse is a private site surrounded by protected land.
We seek a “conservation buyer” to pay a substantial price, in order to help defray our acquisition price for the entire farm. Another possibility is an investor group or an affordable housing developer.
Timing of Proposals
Proposals are sought before June 30, 2004.
Angino Community Farm Is On The Way
City Approves Purchase and Begins Acquisition
In December 2004, the Newton Board of Aldermen voted to fund the Newton Conservators’ proposal for the acquisition of the Angino Farm. With their vote (20 yes, 4 no ), the Aldermen brought to a close a nine-month process during which the idea to operate the property as a community farm took shape. Now a new process is in motion to close the acquisition and set up the infrastructure for operation of the farm. The schedule for this part of the process will take us into May.
Meanwhile, we are working with the city and with other groups to prepare for the first season’s harvest at Angino Farm. It is unclear at this point how long that will take and whether we can expect 2005 to be the first season or whether we will have to wait until 2006. Either way, there is a great deal of activity needed to get this project underway, only part of which has directly to do with planting.
Needless to say, the Conservators are extremely pleased that the city has agreed to save one of Newton ’s most significant remaining open spaces. In a city nearing full build-out, with few remaining privately held open spaces, the Conservators will continue to negotiate with landowners and advocate for the protection of irreplaceable open spaces.
One thing that has been especially gratifying about the effort to save Angino Farm is the tremendous outpouring of community support for this project. Newton residents spoke out loudly for saving our last farm and returning it to agricultural use as a community farm and city officials heard the call. We thank all of those who wrote letters, made phone calls, volunteered countless hours and made pledges of financial support to insure the success of our efforts.
Current activity on the city side falls into three categories. First is the acquisition of the property. The city is negotiating the final details of the Purchase and Sale Agreement with the Angino family. As part of the purchase process, a permanent conservation restriction (CR) is being developed, as required by the Community Preservation Act, to protect the property from resale or unintended use down the road. This CR must be approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection and will likely be held by the Conservators. Closure on the CR and the property itself is expected to occur in May 2005, at the latest.
The second city activity relates to rezoning of the property. The farm is currently zoned for housing, which, while questionable under prior circumstances, is clearly inappropriate for a community farm. The most likely scenario is to convert this property to a “public use” zone and those details are being worked out with the Board of Aldermen, who must approve all zoning changes.
Finally, the city is designing an oversight process to manage its interests in the operation of the farm. A Farm Commission is being discussed that would be made up of a variety of city and community representatives. It would have responsibility for selecting and contracting with a farm operator, reviewing and approving business plans, and monitoring operations to ensure compliance with city interests. The precise size and shape of this new city board is still in discussion. Formation of the Farm Commission will require passage of an enabling ordinance by the Board of Aldermen, appointment and approval of members fitting the requirements of the ordinance, and organization of the Commission. It is unclear how long this process will take or what shortcuts may be possible to expedite first-season decisions, but this is probably the most critical outstanding issue in terms of the farm’s ability to actually get into the ground this summer.
Our vision for the farm, which has been conveyed to city officials, includes a resident farmer, organic farming, produce sales, educational programs, and the donation of food to those in need. One thing that it is important to emphasize is that the Conservators’ proposal to the Community Preservation Committee calls for a financially independent, non-profit community farm operation that would not depend on continuing financial support from the city. The operation would pay its own way and maintain the farm buildings through sale of produce, fundraising, and programming.
In developing the Community Preservation proposal, the Conservators partnered with a grassroots coalition of Newton residents, who worked with professional farmers to develop an extremely credible farm operations proposal. This group has shown an ability to organize, to fundraise, and to build a base of knowledge and expertise necessary to launch a successful farm operation. This Newton Community Farm group is currently in the process of incorporating and obtaining 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. One possibility is that the city will select this group to operate the farm. Alternatively, this group may play a supporting role through fundraising and volunteering, a role similar to that of the Friends of the Newton Free Library. The Newton Community Farm group has prepared a Farm Status Report with more details on the current situation.
The Newton Conservators is committed to helping the Newton Community Farm Group get off to a strong start. To this end, we have pledged financial support to this group and have also agreed to accept and hold donations while this fledgling non-profit organization obtains its 501(c)3 status. A farm cannot operate without tools, equipment, and supplies. Now is the time to get the farm off to a strong start by providing funds for farm start-up costs, development of educational programs, and basic building maintenance.
We Need Your Support
Four generous Newton residents have offered a $15,000 Challenge Grant to the Newton Community Farm group. This means that the first $15,000 in donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar! But it also means that we can’t claim this gift unless other generous residents make contributions up to the amount of the Challenge Grant.
We urge you to support the farm today by writing a fully tax-deductible check, payable to Newton Conservators, Inc. Be sure to write “farm” on the check memo line and the Newton Conservators will hold these funds in a designated account on behalf of the Newton Community Farm Group, pending that group’s incorporation as a non-profit. Please mail checks to us at PO Box 590011, Newton Centre, MA 02459.
We also want to take a moment to thank the Ledgebrook Condominium Association, abutters to the Angino Farm, who have also pledged substantial financial support to the Newton Community Farm group.
Jon Regosin and Doug Dickson
Update on Angino Farm
Steps to complete the acquisition of Angino Farm, a 2.25-acre historic property, are continuing, with good progress made on some fronts but unfortunate delays on others. Among the good news is preliminary acceptance by the State Department of Environmental Protection of the conservation restriction that will be held by the Newton Conservators, as required for all purchases using CPA funds. The Conservators recently reviewed and signed the CR and it next goes before the Board of Aldermen to be formally considered and accepted by the city.
This is a critical step since the city has determined that the transaction cannot be brought to a close without this preliminary approval. With this acceptance by the state, the actual purchase of the farm from the Angino family looks likely to be achieved in May, as originally hoped.
Two other steps are off schedule. The most important is creation of a Farm Commission to set policy for and oversee operation of the farm. A committee of aldermen, representatives of the mayor and of interested groups, including the Farm Group and the Community Preservation Committee, is drafting an ordinance to enable this Commission. The composition of the Commission and its precise duties and responsibilities are under discussion and some additional time will be required to get agreement.
Once agreement is reached, the draft ordinance will go to the Board of Aldermen, where it will first be reviewed in committee (most likely the Committee on Community Preservation). They have indicated they will hold a hearing to obtain public input about the shape and mission of the Farm Commission. Any changes will be worked out, and it will then go to the full Board for consideration. This process will likely take several weeks.
When the ordinance is passed, it must be signed by the Mayor and a twenty-day period for appeals must pass. Then members of the Commission will be selected, appointed and approved and the work of the group can commence. Initial activity will center on the nature of the working relationship between the farm and the city. Assuming the Commission decides to contract with a nonprofit farm group, a contract will need to be drafted and approved. Policies will be developed and other details worked out. It is now quite clear that these steps will not be completed in time for this year’s planting season.
A second issue involves re-zoning of the property. This step is also off schedule and requires Board of Aldermen approval, but is not on the critical path. Some work on the buildings and other preparatory work on the land itself may be possible this year, but the reality is that the farm will not be up and running until the spring of 2006.
Angino Farm Update
If you’ve driven by Angino Farm at the corner of Winchester and Nahanton Streets this summer, you no doubt noticed that it hasn’t changed much from its appearance in recent summers. The grasses covering the two-acre farm have grown, been cut and grown again. The house and barn stand quietly to the side, part of a pastoral scene common in this part of the city until land values and development pressure rendered these small family farms extinct—except for this one remaining specimen.
Although lying dormant through most of the 2005 growing season, progress has been made behind the scenes this summer that will begin to bear fruit over the coming months. Several changes will be apparent this fall. First, the field will be tilled and seeded with a cover crop. This will loosen the soil, introduce organic material and prepare for planting in the spring. Second, work will begin on restoring the house and barn, making it habitable for a live-in farmer and farm programming activity.
A range of actions this summer has cleared the way for progress this fall and winter, with the timeline set to permit planting next spring. Here is a run-down of these behind-the-scenes steps and those that lie immediately ahead:
Farm Commission Appointed
The various appointing authorities outlined in the Angino Farm Commission ordinance (passed by the Board of Aldermen on May 2, 2005 , and amended on August 8, 2005 ) have been at work identifying the members of the group that will oversee operation of Angino Farm.
The ordinance calls for five separate appointing entities: the Mayor appoints five members, the Board of Aldermen appoints one, and each of three city boards elects one of their members to serve on the Farm Commission.
As of this writing, seven of the nine members have been selected. The Mayor has one more appointment to make (someone with farming or agricultural experience) and the Parks and Recreation Commission will designate a representative at its meeting later in September. (See the list of current members and their backgrounds.)
Commission Holds First Meeting
The initial members of this oversight group held their first meeting on September 8 to begin their work together. They were welcomed by Mayor Cohen, by Alderman Steve Linsky and other members of the Board, and by City Solicitor Dan Funk and Public Buildings Commissioner Nick Parnell, who will actively work with the Commission. Cheryl Lappin, Ward 8 Alderman and the aldermanic appointee to the Commission, will serve as temporary chair of the group while it is getting organized. Martha Horn, the city’s environmental planner, will staff the Commission.
The learning curve for the Commission is steep and much of this meeting was devoted to hearing presentations and asking questions. That will also be true for upcoming meetings. Two decisions were made at the first meeting. The Commission agreed to accept the generous offer of the Newton Community Farm (see next paragraph) to fund tilling and planting of a cover crop this fall. They also agreed that the group will need to meet frequently this fall to accomplish the tremendous amount of work needed to get the farm in operation by next spring. The next meeting was slated for September 13 and a future meeting schedule was expected to be determined at that meeting.
Newton Farm Group Organized
The group that came together to advocate for purchase of Angino Farm and stayed together to focus its expertise around planning for the success of the farm was legally incorporated as a non-profit organization in August. The group is now known as the Newton Community Farm. (NCF). The group has also applied to the IRS for tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. That process takes about six months to complete.
NCF is organized to develop and deliver educational programming related to the farm, to advocate on its behalf, to raise funds to support the farm and to provide the expertise needed to operate the farm. In addition, the group would like to be the entity with whom the Farm Commission contracts to manage the farm on a day-to-day basis. This decision will be made by the Commission this fall and, if NCF is selected, a contract will be negotiated and NCF will employ a farmer to run the operation. (See related story.)
In August, the Board of Aldermen voted to change the zoning designation for Angino Farm from residential to public use. This redefines what the property can legally be used for and brings the zoning into line with goals for the farm. Public Use is defined by ordinance (chapter 30, section 6) as common areas intended to serve a public purpose, including streets and parking lots but also public gardens, parks, conservation areas and other similar public purposes. The law permits the land to be used for “farmer’s markets, fairs, festivals and other like uses” if temporary licenses for these purposes are granted by the Board of Aldermen.
House and Barn Improvements
The Public Buildings department has installed exterior lighting and taken other steps this summer to secure the property. This fall, Public Buildings will begin phase one of a series of improvements to the house and barn. Money for this phase (about $40,000) was approved by the Community Preservation Committee and the Board of Aldermen and will come out of CPA funds. Future improvements will be funded through donations and money from other sources.
The house and barn were surveyed extensively by Donald Lang, an architect who serves on the Newton Historic Commission, and were found to be structurally sound. Like any old buildings, however, repairs and upgrades will be needed, some more urgently than others. As a result, the work was organized into three timeframes.
Phase one improvements include upgrades to the electrical service, installation of smoke detectors, minor plumbing and electrical repairs, asbestos remediation, adding insulation, repair of plaster ceilings and walls, repair of windows and doors, replacement of appliances and other changes that are aimed at creating a safe living environment. The objective is to make the house habitable for a live-in farmer and to prepare it and the barn for use in support of farm operations.
Future improvements are scheduled over a five-year time frame and include further upgrades to utilities, a new roof, painting, some structural repairs and some restoration work. This is anticipated to cost about $85,000. Long-terms plans include remodeling of bathrooms and kitchen, completion of historic restoration work, and creation of meeting facilities and classroom space. About $182,000 is budgeted for long-term improvements.
At an upcoming meeting, the Farm Commission will meet with David Naparstek, Public Health Commissioner, to discuss connection of the house to the city sanitary sewer system and closure of the old cesspool. Related to this discussion will be proposals to capture gray water for irrigation and to install composting toilets. The suggestion has been made that this city project also serve as a model for environmental sustainability and this discussion will be the first step in determining the extent to which that will indeed be considered a priority.
Another topic to be discussed is the capacity of the existing dug well and whether a drilled well will be needed for irrigation of crops. Future topics might include solar power and other demonstration projects.
Dedication of the Farm
A formal dedication and naming ceremony is planned for a date in October, not finalized as of mid-September. An engraved stone bench will be unveiled in recognition of Jerry Angino and the contribution of the Angino family to the life of the community. The bench will be located at the rear of the house adjacent to a small patio and shaded by an old apple tree. This site was selected by the family for sentimental reasons.
The Farm Commission has several decisions to make and tasks to complete during the next several weeks. First and foremost is to research farm operations in surrounding towns to learn what has worked and what hasn’t. Out of that should come a decision about the business model the farm will follow.
The most prevalent model and the one most often discussed with respect to Angino Farm is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This model involves sale of shares that entitles shareholders to a portion of crops grown on a weekly basis. The advantages of this system are that it collects committed dollars upfront, providing for working capital; it partially insures against the risk of crop failure by engaging supporters who are willing to take the chance that shares will be reduced because of bad weather and other causes; and it provides predictable volunteer labor to the extent that shareholders commit to working a certain number of hours per week, as is often the case.
Other models include direct sale of produce at markets, like the Newton Farmer ’s Market, or at a stand on-site, or wholesaling to stores and restaurants. Some combination of these approaches may ultimately create the best and most balanced option.
The Commission will then need to select a farm operator and negotiate a contract that outlines the terms of the working arrangement over some defined time period. Most parties close to this process have recommended a longer-term contract than is typically the case for municipal governments. Five years instead of the usual three would give the farm operation a better chance to contend with start-up issues and spread the cost of start-up operations over a longer period. Details of the contract will spell out policies, performance expectations and reporting requirements. To this last point, the Commission will also need to identify and structure its own financial and other reporting obligations to the city.
The ordinance establishing the Farm Commission requires the group to hold a public hearing to spell out the initial set of policies and procedures for operation of the farm prior to their adoption. Such a hearing would probably be held in the October-November timeframe if the Commission is to stay on-track for an early spring start-up of the farm operation. (See timeline.)
This is a very busy but exciting time in our quest to create a vibrant community farm in Newton . The Angino Farm Commission will be the focus of activity over the next several months. Participation in the process by those who have helped conceive and advocate for this project is especially important at this point to provide continuity, information and impetus to this phase of the effort. It can be easy to assume that everything will flow naturally from the strong start that has been made, but this is a vulnerable point in the process. New players are coming up to speed, ideas are being culled and honed, proposals are being concretized, and decisions are being made that have the potential to set the course for years to come.
It is critical that we stay engaged in this process in order to shape it, keep it true to our vision and, with hard work and good fortune, to lay the groundwork for many years of successful community farming in Newton .
Farm Commission Members
The Angino Farm Commission is comprised of nine members. To date, seven of the members have been selected. To help you get acquainted with this new city board, a list of the seven members appointed to date, the role each plays on the Commission and a brief bio for each follows.
- Louise Bruyn, expertise in sustainable environmental practices. Louise helped found and served as initial president of the Green Decade Coalition/Newton in 1990. She is a long-time environmental activist with extensive connections to resources in Newton and beyond. She worked hard to advocate for the purchase of Angino Farm.
- James Harper, expertise in finance and accounting. Jim served for many years as controller of Eastern Enterprises, the owner of Boston Gas before it was acquired by Keyspan. He is currently tax manager for Iron Mountain. Jim has also served as treasurer to non-profit organizations. He is a graduate of Harvard Business School.
- Peter Lewenberg, expertise in operating a retail or wholesale business. Peter was a food broker for many years, selling food products of all types to supermarkets, specialty shops and other venues. He earned a degree in agricultural economics from UMass, on whose board he sat as a trustee during the 90s. He spent five years working on public-private partnerships for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and currently works in development and alumni giving for MIT.
- Theresa Walsh, at-large citizen appointee. Theresa lives near Angino Farm and worked for the school department for many years. Since retiring, she has been a tireless advocate for and leader of outdoor education projects for public school students. She runs programs for students at Nahanton Park and looks forward to creating educational opportunities at Angino Farm.
- Appointee with expertise in farming or agriculture—not yet selected.
- Cheryl Lappin, at-large citizen appointee. Cheryl is a resident of Ward 8, where Angino Farm is located and which she serves as Ward Alderman. She brings business experience in public relations and marketing, along with real estate appraisal skills. Cheryl is serving as temporary chair of the Commission until it identifies roles and elects members to fill them. This probably won’t happen until a full panel is in place.
- Judy Hepburn, Conservation Commission. In addition to her service as an associate member of the Conservation Commission, Judy is a long-time member of the Friends of Nahanton Park, a city-owned facility adjacent to Angino Farm. She served on the board of the Newton Conservators and is currently an Advisor. Judy is trained as a geologist and teaches at Boston College . She is an avid birder.
- Donald Lang, Historic Commission. Donald is an architect who specializes in historic restoration and preservation of public buildings, among other things. He also serves on the Chestnut Hill Historic District Commission and was recently appointed to the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board. Early in the acquisition process, he surveyed the Angino property and drew up a plan for upgrading and restoring the buildings to make them suitable for public use.
- Parks and Recreation Commission representative—not yet selected.
Newton Community Farm Gets Organized
Making the transition from a loosely formed group that came together to advocate for purchase of Angino Farm to a permanent organization with a well-defined mission has been a relatively smooth one for Newton Community Farm (NCF). This is a testament to the singularity of this group’s vision and the energy and support they have inspired in the community for their mission. As the focus shifts from advocacy to operations, NCF has formalized its structure by incorporating as a Massachusetts non-profit organization. It has filed an application for tax-exempt status with the IRS and is waiting for approval, a process that can take about six months. Meanwhile, NCF is working with the newly appointed Angino Farm Commission to provide background information, lay out a calendar and help shape the policies and procedures under which the farm will operate. Ultimately, NCF would like to be the entity with which the Commission contracts to run the farm. In its first official communication with the new Commission, NCF laid out the following information about the organization and its achievements:
- With the Newton Conservators, developed a proposal to the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) for city acquisition of Angino Farm.
- At the request of the CPC, developed a preliminary operating plan and budget, demonstrating NCF’s preparedness to operate the farm and maintain the buildings under the direction of the Farm Commission.
- Collected $36,965 in contributions from over 50 donors, and obtained an additional $65,400 in pledges toward farm start-up and operating costs.
- Generated a list of approximately 80 Newton residents willing to pre-purchase produce to help insure the financial viability of the farm.
- Incorporated and is submitting an application for 501(c)(3) status so that NCF can serve as either the non-profit operator of the farm or a fundraising and support group for the farm.
- Established six subcommittees to explore in detail the critical aspects of operating the community farm envisioned by Newton ’s citizens and leaders: agriculture, education, buildings/sustainable environmental practices, business/legal, fundraising, and communications.
- Prepared a working facilities plan, addressing the steps necessary for the restoration and operation of the site’s buildings.
- Outlined a financially sound plan for the first three years of the farm’s operation.
- Met with the Bowen Elementary Schoolyard Initiative to explore opportunities for educational programming utilizing the farm resources.
Community Farm Timeline
NCF has also put together a timeline of activities that will enable the farm to commence operations next spring. This creates a starting point for the Angino Farm Commission’s work and provides valuable guidance as they plan their next steps.
- Sep 2005—Till field and plant cover crop
- Sep-Nov—Investigate alternative wastewater options
- Oct-Jan—Ready building for occupancy by farmer
- Nov—Sign contract with city to operate for an initial three-to-five-year period
- Nov-Dec—Interview and hire farmer
- Nov-Feb—Pre-sell produce to assure adequate funding of farmer’s salary
- Dec-Feb—Contract with partner farm(s) to supply supplemental produce to meet pre-purchase commitments
- Feb 2006—Install temporary greenhouse and start seedlings
- Nov-Mar—Work with pilot school to develop first educational programming and plan student field trips
- Mar—File first quarterly financial report with Angino Farm Commission
Angino Farm Operator is Selected
The Angino Farm Commission has selected Newton Community Farm (NCF) to operate Angino Farm for a period of three years, with two option years for a total of five years. The selection was made at a meeting of the Farm Commission on Thursday, November 3, after having issued a formal Request for Interest (RFI). NCF was the only organization to respond to the Commission’s RFI.
The Farm Commission will now negotiate a contract with NCF, covering the responsibilities of the farm operator and the expectations and requirements of the city. This will include farm practices, insurance and liability, repair and maintenance of buildings and equipment, fundraising, public relations, community involvement, educational programming, traffic issues and other such matters. A contract is anticipated to be in place by mid-December.
This will enable the farm operator to move forward with plans to plant this spring (their schedule is outlined in an article that begins below).
NCF is a non-profit corporation formed this summer and awaiting its 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS. Its board and mission are listed below.
The condition of the farmhouse and barn has been much studied both during and after the decision to purchase the property. The most recent assessment was made by Newton ’s Public Buildings department and their recommendations are listed below.
Finally, an extensive fundraising program is needed to launch Angino Farm. Giving opportunities and other details are described below.
NCF Chosen to Run Farm
Have you driven by the corner of Winchester and Nahanton Streets lately? For the first time in years the field looks like an active farm. Green winter rye planted in late September covers the 1.1-acre field. That green field is only part of the good news!
The group of Newton citizens, who with the Conservators a year ago encouraged the city to buy the Angino farm using Community Preservation funds, was recently selected to operate the farm on behalf of the city. Incorporated as Newton Community Farm (NCF), this non-profit organization was established to:
- Preserve the cultural and historic landscape of Angino Farm,
- Grow organic produce for the benefit of Newton residents,
- Provide the Newton community a model and educational centre for sustainable land use and energy practices, and
- Use green or sustainable methods for renovation and operation of the farmhouse, the barn, and the fields.
The Angino Farm Commission, created by city ordinance to oversee the operation of the farm, requested proposals from non-profit organizations to operate the farm. On November 3 rd, the Commission selected NCF to begin farming this spring. The city, after purchasing the farm and committing the funds to get the house on site habitable by a farmer, will turn over to NCF the financial responsibility of operating the farm and work with NCF to upgrade the house and barn to support educational and environmental activities.
The next step in the process will be the negotiation of a contract between the city Farm Commission and NCF, the operator. The goal is to complete this process by mid-December. Farm Commission Chair Peter Lewenberg describes the relationship between the Commission and NCF as a partnership that will accommodate the evolving program on site. The NCF will prepare a Landscape Master Plan for the site with the help of the many stakeholders with an interest in the success of the Newton Community Angino Farm.
NCF will depend on Newton citizens to make the vision of an organic farm and environmental center in Newton a reality. The farm is small, with only about 1.5 acres of the site open to growing crops. NCF plans to sell produce on site, at the Newton Farmers’ Markets and through pre-paid shares. The income from produce grown on site will not pay all of NCF’s bills, especially the start-up costs of $50,000 to purchase the equipment needed to farm the site and the $200,000-300,000 to complete renovation of the buildings. In addition to the farm operation, NCF hopes that the site will become a center for environmental education and advocacy in Newton . We would like to invite the Newton Conservators and Green Decade Coalition to use the house for office space and to help plan environmental programs for the operation.
Many Newton citizens and members of the Conservators have expressed interest in supporting the farm. NCF will need significant financial support now to become operational by spring. A list of the items needed and their associated costs is included on the next page.
Assuming the contract with the city is in place by December as planned, the following schedule will commence early in 2006, leading to planting in the spring and operation of the farm this summer:
- In January, NCF will clean and paint the inside of the house, interview potential farmers and offer pre-sale of produce shares (more about that to come).
- In February, we will hire a farmer, order seeds, buy equipment, plant early crops in a portable greenhouse and set up a schedule for volunteer activities on the farm.
- In March, we’ll plow under the cover crop we just planted (drive by and see the beautiful green field) and start more seedlings.
- In April, we will start garden bed preparation and begin putting plants and seeds in the ground.
- By late May, we will begin sharing the bounty and school children, volunteers and other Newton citizens will begin learning about farming, home gardening and sound environmental stewardship.
What and Who is NCF?
The Newton Community Farm organization grew out of the group that organized itself to plan and advocate for the acquisition of Angino Farm. The group has grown over the past several months and has worked steadily behind the scenes to help shape the process that has brought the farm to this stage of reality.
It has also engaged in fundraising activities, garnering $37,000 in initial donations and pledges for $65,000 more over five years. It has also identified more that 80 families and individuals who are interested in purchasing shares of produce grown by the farm. The group has incorporated and applied to the IRS for tax-exempt status.
NCF has developed initial planting plans and will continue to work on a landscape master plan that lays out the location of various garden elements, accounting for crop rotation, foot traffic and optimal use of the relatively small space. It has also collected a cultural history and worked to assess community interest and potential partners in its programming initiatives.
The NCF mission is to preserve the last operating farm in Newton as an historic and culturally valuable landscape. It plans to do this by pursuing the following goals: preserving the cultural and historic landscape of Angino Farm, growing organic produce for the benefit of Newton residents, providing a demonstration and educational model for sustainable land use and energy practices, and using green or sustainable methods for renovation and operation of the farmhouse, barn and fields.
Leading the charge during this formative period are the following members of the NCF board of directors:
John Regosin, president—a conservation biologist with the Endangered Species Program of the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and a member of the Newton Conservators board.
Rebekah Smillie, clerk—a community activist, board member of City Sprouts, a Cambridge schools organic gardening program, and former educational researcher.
Larry Burdick, treasurer—former financial services executive and active on boards of the Trustees of Reservations, NE Wildflower Society and the Newton Conservators, among others.
Jenny Outman —counsel to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture of the state legislature, who has assisted the Conservators and other land trusts with land conveyances and CRs.
Ted Chapman, chair of farming committee—longtime organic farmer, practitioner of homeopathic medicine and candidate for landscape design certificate from the Arnold Arboretum Landscape Institute.
Ross London, chair of fundraising committee—degrees in engineering and business administration and a long record of activism in neighborhood and school issues; longtime community gardener at Nahanton Park .
Peter Barrer, chair of building committee—professional engineer and founder of leading firm in energy efficiency consulting field.
Elyse Rosenblum —attorney who consults to foundations, corporations and non-profit organizations on educational programs and issues.
Taken from NCF’s Application to Operate Angino Farm
Giving Opportunities for NCF and Angino Farm
A significant amount of money has been raised over the past several months but much more is needed to make Angino Farm a reality. We urge Newton Conservators members to become a part of this exciting community project. Listed below are specific giving opportunities, as well as other categories where help is needed. To learn more about how you can participate, contact Ross London, chair of the NCF fundraising committee at 617-332-2417. Tax-deductible donations in any amount are welcome.
Donate items on our start-up equipment wish list:
- First year compost, 1700 cu/yds, $6,000
- Greenhouse, with heater and fans, $4,595
- Tractor, compact utility type, 35 HP, $15-25,000
- Imants spader, model 32SH-L (47”), $6,630
- Wide sweep cultivators (2), $1,000 each
- Compost spreader, $6,475
- Bush Hog, $3,000
- Tractor, cultivating type, $3,000
- Basket cultivator, $2,000
- Rototiller – 20”, $2,800
- Earthway row seeder, $278
- Flame weeder, $158
- Garden cart (2), $109 each
- Wheel hoe, with accessories, $2,500
- Irrigation well, $5,000
- Irrigation equipment, $2,000
- Electric deer fence (solar powered), $420
- Donate services or financial backing for:
- Website development
- Public relations
- Event coordination
- On-site programs
List provided by Ted Chapman
Rehab of the Angino Farmhouse
At its November meeting, the Farm Commission heard a report by Nick Parnell, Commissioner of Public Buildings for the city, outlining the priorities he saw in bringing the house up to code so that it can be used as a residence for the farmer as well as for programs. About $40,000 in CPA funds has been set aside to cover initial rehabilitation costs as part of the acquisition process. This amount was based on an initial assessment of what actions were needed and the discussion at November’s meeting was intended to hear an updated version of priorities and their associated costs.
Based on that discussion, the Commission decided to fund the following list of construction projects, due to be completed by the end of the year:
- New roof, $22,750
- Repointing and repair of masonry, $7,920
- Upgrade of electrical service, $7,500
- Structural evaluation of house and barn, $5,000
- Asbestos abatement, $3,750
- Boiler (heating) repair, $450
In addition to these activities, the Department of Public Works will connect the house to the city sanitary sewer system and appropriate security and fire alarms will be installed in the house and barn.
Longer term needs in the house include some structural work under a portion of the building to replace wood sills weakened by powder post beetles and cosmetic work, including painting, floor refinishing, upgraded kitchen and bathroom fixtures. The barn will also require work and that will follow after a structural evaluation. It is not yet clear what is needed to make the barn safe for its intended uses.
Angino Community Farm is Ready to Go!
Thanks to all those who supported the city’s acquisition of Angino Farm. We pass along this information from Newton Community Farm which will be operating the farm under arrangement with the city. Shares are now available under the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.
Three years ago Newton citizens had the vision to preserve the historic Angino farm from development and to reopen it as a community farm for the benefit of Newton residents. A new non-profit organization, Newton Community Farm, Inc. (NCF), was established to raise funds and operate the farm. With the continued support of Newton residents, NCF is confident that we will fulfill our mission to:
- Preserve Newton’s last farm as an active agricultural site
- Grow and provide organic produce to Newton residents
- Model and teach sustainable agricultural and environmental practices
- Achieve financial viability and independence from city funds
Working with the City’s Angino Farm Commission, we have recently made significant progress in turning the vision of a community farm into a reality. We have signed a contract with the City to operate the farm and we have hired a farmer. We are working with the City and the Green Decade Coalition to make the buildings habitable and energy efficient; we are collaborating with the Recreation Department and local schools to develop educational programs for children and adults; and we are fundraising to allow all this to happen.
Help to launch the farm on a sound financial footing by subscribe to pre-purchase produce for 2006. We invite you to purchase produce through our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. By agreeing to pre-pay for a portion of our crops, you will be helping the Newton Angino Community Farm achieve the financial independence that the City requires. In exchange, you will receive a weekly allotment of delicious fresh produce grown using organic practices.
Much of the produce distributed through the CSA will be grown on-site, with an emphasis on vegetables that are tender and do not travel or store easily – salad makings, tomatoes, herbs, and greens. To provide the full spectrum of produce, certain items such as corn and winter squash which require more space than our modest site allows will be brought in from one or more local partner organic farms.
We anticipate providing a weekly produce allotment for 20 weeks, from early June through mid-October. We will have several pickup times each week. Under typical conditions, portions are calculated to provide amply for a family of four. However, in purchasing a CSA portion, it is important to remember that you are sharing in the bounty of the garden as well as in the risk. Production is always weather-dependent and the first year adds an additional degree of uncertainty. Although we are confident that, with supplements from our partner farms, produce allotments will be substantial, the pre-purchase of produce is more than an opportunity to obtain outstanding produce—it is an opportunity to invest in this start-up non-profit community farm, and help to assure our success.
If a full portion is too large, we recommend that prospective subscribers arrange to split portions with friends or neighbors. Another alternative is to donate a half or full portion to a local shelter or meal program. NCF will make all the arrangements to have the produce delivered to people in need. In addition, extra produce not picked up, sold on site, or at the farmer’s market will be donated to these programs by NCF.
What is the cost of a CSA portion for 2006?
The cost is $500 plus an 8-hour work commitment to support the farm operations. This amount is less than most CSA’s in the Boston area, but this is our first year with all its uncertainties. The work commitment is our way of developing a sense of community and identification with the farm, and fostering opportunities for education. Many CSA supporters at other community farms find the work opportunity particularly rewarding.
How do I sign up for a CSA portion?
To subscribe to our CSA, please fill out the application and mail it back with your check for $500 made out to Newton Community Farm – CSA. If necessary, payment may be made in two installments: $275 due with the application and a second payment of $225 due by June 1st
Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis upon receipt of your complete application and check. Newton residents will receive first priority. After March 30th, 2006, remaining shares will be offered to non-Newton residence on a lottery basis.
Will there be other opportunities to purchase produce and enjoy the benefits of the community farm?
Newton Community Farm is committed to making produce widely available to Newton residents, whether or not they are willing or able to participate in the pre-sale program. Produce will be sold at an on-site farm stand, as well as at the City-run California Street Farmer’s Market. We are also exploring other venues. In addition, the farm site will be open to the public, and educational programming will be developed for people of all ages. There will also be opportunities to participate in special events such as our fall harvest festival.
Can I support the farm without purchasing a CSA portion?
Yes! For a tax-deductible contribution of $25 or more you can become a member of Newton Community Farm and receive our monthly e-mail Newsletter, Newton Farmer. (CSA subscribers and recent contributors to our end of year fundraising appeal are automatically members.)
We also need volunteers for this project to blossom into a vibrant agricultural and educational center for our community. This farm belongs to Newton residents. We invite you to come and get your hands dirty! And if you have experience or skills in the areas needed (or you’re willing to learn), come and be part of this great community of growers. Please fill out an application indicating your area of interest or email Rebekah Smillie at rsmillie(AT)rcn.com. You can visit our website for applications and information.
We need volunteers in the following areas:
- Public relations
- Educational programs
- Website development
- Graphic design
- Manning farm stands
- Desktop publishing
- Organizing volunteers
- Maintenance (painting, carpentry, plumbing)
- Grant writing
Please join us in our groundbreaking year. Consider purchasing a CSA portion, volunteering, or providing critical financial assistance to Newton’s non-profit community farm. We are dedicated to providing delicious, locally-grown, organic produce.
Thank you for your support!