October 13, 2014: After passing CPA in the spring of 2009, the town of Seekonk did not waste any time putting their CPA dollars to good use. The town has appropriated CPA funds to place two Agricultural Preservation Restrictions (APRs) on sizable plots of farmland, and in doing so leveraged $888,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture.
The first project, known as the Cuddigan Farm, permanently preserved 68 acres of Seekonk farmland for agricultural purposes. Using $147,000 of CPA funds, the project leveraged $588K from the state to meet the $735,000 property value appraisal. While the land can always be sold, the APR ensures that the property would be sold at farmland value and kept for continued agricultural use.
In addition to preserving some of the state’s prime soils of agricultural significance for farming, the project also protected land for flood protection, habitat wildlife and the Runnins River watershed. Other spill-over benefits of the project, located on School Street, include the advancement of Seekonk’s Master Plan and the overall protection of the town’s agricultural character for generations to come.
The second APR project, known as the Yaghjian project, conserved 30-acres with $180,000 in local CPA funds and $300,000 ($10,000 per acre) leveraged from the state. To assist with the acquisition, the Farmland and Ranchland Protection Program, a federal program under the US Department of Agriculture, reimbursed the APR program $240,000. The farm was originally purchased by Nubar and Lilly Yaghjian in 1949. Along with Nubar’s brother, Anthony, the family planted and harvested vegetables that were then sold at local markets including the Fall River Avenue farm stand. The current protection effort was led by the next generation of the family, Arthur and Lucretia Yaghjian, who grew up on the farm. After their parents died, the two sought out ways to conserve their family heritage.
In 2012, with help from the Seekonk Land Conservation Trust, the Seekonk Conservation Commission and the Trustees of Reservations, the two siblings were able to finalize the APR on the land, permanently preserving the land for agricultural purposes. In addition to preserving the beauty of the land, those involved also wanted to fortify the long tradition of farming in Seekonk.
Today the farm is still owned by the Yaghjian family and is leased to a local farmer that continues to grow sweet corn, peppers, summer squash, butternut squash, pumpkins and other vegetables. To honor the family’s effort to save the land, the Trustees of Reservations gave the family a Sweet Thing Magnolia tree.
Without CPA, project advocates said the town would have struggled to find $327,000 in local funding to project the total 98-acres of land.
“The dedicated CPA funds made all the difference with these two APRs,” said Kelley Whitmore of The Trustees of Reservations who works closely with the Seekonk Land Conservation Trust to advance land protection projects in Seekonk. “The Seekonk Land Trust, the Seekonk CPC, the Seekonk Conservation Commission – we all contributed in advancing these APRs with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.”
>> Read the Sun Chronicle's article on the Yaghjian family farm project.
>> View the Seekonk Town Meeting article on preserving the Cuddigan farmland.