Every day is Earth Day at NRCS. This Conservation Showcase is your portal to the stories of Massachusetts farmers and forest land owners working together with NRCS and our partners to protect the nation's soil, water, animals, plants and air. We hope that through these stories, you'll understand how NRCS is helping people help the land every day in the Bay State.
Amanda Barker | Nuestro Huerto Community Farm, Worcester, Massachusetts
When Amanda Barker arrived in Worcester, Massachusetts in 2009 to start graduate school she knew that she wanted to grow food and build community. Seven years later, she is one of the nation’s urban agriculture pioneers. As Director and Farm Manager of Nuestro Huerto Community Farm, Barker and her corps of volunteers are raising vegetables, fruit, herbs and greens on a third of an acre behind a church in Worcester’s south end. In addition to the usual challenges that go with farming, urban farming brings its own unique concerns such as security. But, Barker’s biggest hurdle was inadequate irrigation. The drip irrigation system that she connected to the church’s water supply wasn’t getting enough water to the crops. So, she contacted the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for help.
Jay Galusha | Fairfield Dairy Farm | Williamstown, Mass.
The 400 acres of hay land and 220 acres of corn at Fairfield Dairy Farm in Williamstown, Mass. are set among sweeping vistas of the Berkshire hills. The beauty belies the challenges faced by the five generations of the Galusha family who have farmed this rugged land. Jay Galusha, who, with other family members, milks 240 cows, has found a solution with the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
In the summer of 2015, Samantha Whittier’s dad, Wayne, signed up for aerial cover crop seeding offered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The conservation practice involves a helicopter swooping over corn fields, releasing winter rye seed from a hopper swinging beneath the chopper. To a bystander, it might look like an air show or a crime scene investigation, but it’s actually a very controlled seed application that uses a Global Positioning System (GPS) to track the helicopter’s flight path and precisely map where seed was distributed. With a retail farm store that’s open daily and fields that are very visible to their neighbors, the Whittiers knew that some public education was in order.
Frank and Lisa Kokoski | F&L Farms | Ware, Massachusetts
Frank Kokoski and his daughter Lisa established F&L Farms in 2004, starting small with chickens, pigs and a few cows. The farm, located in Ware, Massachusetts, a small rural town located in Hampshire County at the southern end of the Quabbin Reservoir, grew quickly with additional livestock being added each year and with a small land base, so did the livestock’s impact on the farm’s natural resources. After a few years raising livestock, Frank and Lisa realized they could use some help and contacted NRCS for conservation planning and program support.
Al Rose and his wife Nancy, who operate the fourth generation Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, Mass., have introduced an innovative growing system just a stone’s throw from the the oldest McIntosh tree in commercial production in New England. To ensure success in an area that sees its share of dry summers, Rose sought the help of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Cape Cod’s beautiful seashore, inlets and coves, salt marshes and woodlands are a natural draw for year-round and vacation home owners, and tourists. The associated development is a boon for the local economy but not so good for a small, furry and quite elusive little creature: the New England Cottontail rabbit. And that has some folks quite concerned because habitat loss has New England’s only native rabbit on the brink of being federally listed as endangered.
Jim & Nancy Faulkner with Phalla Nol | farmers | Boxborough, Mass.
When Jim and Nancy Faulkner bought their small farm in Boxborough, Mass. in 2009, the place was a mess. Buildings were falling down, the soil was poor and the land was covered with invasive plants. Nonetheless, they wanted to turn it into a sustainable farm. Help came from two very different directions: a government agency and another small farmer.
Sean Stanton | dairy farmer | Blue Hill Farm | Great Barrington
When Sean Stanton started improving the pastures surrounding his small farm in Great Barrington, Mass., his efforts not only benefited the natural resources of this scenic southwest corner of Berkshire County, but also diners at an upscale eatery on the lower west side of Manhattan.
Hazel Holman | forest land owner | Lanesborough, Massachusetts
Not every forest land owner can say that George Washington slept nearby. Hazel Holman can. The history of the 464 acres of scenic mountain top forest land she owns in Lanesborough, Massachusetts, is inseparable from its natural character. Since colonial times, people have left their mark on this land in Berkshire County. Hazel's legacy will be conservation and stewardship.
Peter Talmage | land owner | Northfield, Massachusetts
When Peter Talmage’s career as a professor of renewable energy and energy efficiency brought him from Maine to a college in Greenfield, Massachusetts with his wife and son, he knew that he wanted to enhance the beauty of the land that they bought in nearby Northfield and improve it as wildlife habitat. So, when his wife Chris heard about a USDA program that would guarantee its protection and provide help in restoring wetlands on the property, they were sold.
Jim Ward | Ward's Berry Farm | Sharon, Massachusetts
Farming in a suburban town 25 miles south of Boston has both benefits and challenges. Those benefits and challenges result from the same thing, lots of neighbors. Farmer Jim Ward has found a way to meet customer demand, while protecting water resources; he’s adopted good soil health practices with the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Michael and Emma Banas | forest land owners | Goshen, Massachusetts
Michael and Emma Banas never thought of themselves as forest land managers. That changed after they bought 138 acres of mostly forested land in Goshen. With a management plan and help from NRCS, the Banas' made improvements that are benefiting wildlife.
Gary Randall | cranberry grower | Carver, Massachusetts
Gary Randall believes that his 13.2 acre cranberry bog in Carver, Massachusetts, is about 100 years old. He also believes that the improvements he's making to his bogs with the help of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Plymouth County Conservation District (PCCD) will ensure that it will be in production for another century.
Paula Packard | Hemlock Hill Farm | Ashby, Massachusetts
Paula Packard lost a lot of sleep buying her farm in Ashby, Massachusetts. "It took me two and a half years to buy it, to work out the deal. I think it took 20 years off my life. It's been hard but we pulled it off," says Paula Packard who, along with her husband Jeffrey, has owned the scenic 150 acre - formerly run-down - farm since 2006.
Jack Lochhead | forest land owner | Conway, Massachusetts
When Jack Lochhead first looked into a federal government program to help him manage his forest land in rural Conway, Massachusetts, he had no idea that it would lead to a surprising discovery deep in the forest.
When Matt Rhodes purchased Edgewood Bogs in 2005, fruit prices were down. He knew that meant the time was ripe to renovate his bogs. By planting hybrid varieties and restructuring the bogs into shapes that are more efficient to manage, Rhodes could increase production, while conserving important natural resources.
John Kokoski | Mapleline Farm | Hadley, Massachusetts
"When you direct market your product, you want people to feel that it's a clean wholesome product coming from a clean wholesome environment," says John Kokoski when explaining how the assistance he's received from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has helped him keep his Hadley, Massachusetts, dairy farm sustainable.
Morven Allen | Maple Shade Farm | Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Morven Allen has had a purpose for as long as he can remember. "Ever since I was a little boy growing up on a farm, that's all I have ever wanted to do," says the Berkshire County, Mass., dairy farmer. "I look forward to getting up every morning at four o'clock and I feel incredibly fortunate to be doing what I am doing."