Stonefield Farm Preserved
BY ADI RAMAN '23
Look around town as you head into school: the longstanding Quill & Press has been closed, replaced by Middlesex Savings Bank. The Kmart shut down permanently, leaving an empty lot. You may even notice new housing developments pop up around town. Needless to say, Acton is changing. The change that will have the largest implications, however, is the conservation of Stonefield Farm, a 51.5 acre expanse covering Acton, Maynard, and Stow. Brothers Carl, Mike, and Paul Simeone run the farm, which their Italian immigrant parents originally developed in 1929. After choosing to retire the farm, the brothers wanted to ensure that its next occupant would not simply construct housing. Fortunately, the nonprofit organization Boston Area Gleaners (BAG) purchased the property with the town’s approval, setting a precedent in balancing Acton’s residential and natural elements.
Founded in 2004, BAG pursues food equity and accessibility. They give food they “glean,” the action of gathering produce for which they are named, to communities in need. BAG’s acquisition of the property for $2.8 million became official during a town meeting on June 21. Acton voters agreed to put $1.2 million from Community Preservation Funds towards this price, and two other nonprofit groups, Acton Conservation Trust and Sudbury Valley Trustees, aim to raise at least $50,000. The nonprofit will pay off the cost that remains over time.
The organization eyed the property primarily because Stonefield Farm has access to Routes 2 and I-495 for efficient produce transport, and the location is ideal to connect with local farmers. Furthermore, the fields will mainly be used for vegetable cultivation, but the property as a whole is diverse, containing woodlands that neighbor the Assabet River Trail and wetlands that help with flood mitigation.
As BAG settled into Acton, The Spectrum reporters asked Paul Franceschi, the organization’s Outreach Coordinator, about its plans. BAG acknowledges that the property was once the homeland of people from the Nipmuc, Massachusett, and Pawtucket tribal nations. Franceschi elaborates, “Our first step on this as we come to Acton is research and educating ourselves about indigenous history, indigenous food sovereignty, and the history of this land—and there are knowledgeable folks in the area that we're connecting with as part of that process.”
In addition, BAG started establishing roots in the community. Maintaining their partnership with Acton’s Cucurbit Farm, a relationship that existed before the move, BAG “also ha[s] a connection to the newly forming Assabet Co-op Market in Maynard and hope[s] to partner with them when they’re open.” Franceschi emphasizes collaboration in BAG’s mission and anticipates connecting with more local businesses. Said collaborations will remain in eastern Massachusetts, as BAG “want[s] to focus on collectively supporting the local food system here as best [they] can.” Currently, the nonprofit is connected to a wide network of farms and food programs, and they are motivated by their concern of spreading themselves too thin.
The property’s purchase and conservation reflect town government ideals: to continue Acton’s development while maintaining its signature natural features. Local businesses and natural beauty enriches residents’ environment. In addition, when an organization moves into a population, they benefit from interacting with the established community. BAG’s willingness to communicate and collaborate with residents and businesses alike will make them invaluable. Moreover, the nonprofit’s mission of fighting food insecurity presents opportunities for residents to volunteer in their programs. The move-in is a symbiotic relationship that preserves Acton’s natural wonders while allowing the community to actively support something worth fighting for.
For more information about Boston Area Gleaners, visit https://www.bostonareagleaners.org/