Middleboro enthusiastically approves Picone Farm protections

Oct 4, 2022

MIDDLEBORO—Voters at the Oct. 3 Special Town Meeting literally applauded the unanimous passage of three articles permanently protecting 189 acres of farmland in town.

Middleboro will purchase the Picone/Sunnyside Farm at 415 Plymouth St. for a total cost to the town of $2.5 million, voters decided at the meeting at Middleboro High School.

The town will own 93 acres of the land outright, and it will co-hold an agricultural restriction on the remaining 96 acres, which will be farmed by Kevin Smith of Greensmith Farms. Town Conservation Commission Agent Patricia Cassady said Smith plans on working with the community to ensure it benefits from his farm.

“Picone Farm, to me, was super important,” said Select Board Chair Mark Germain. “Everybody fought hard. I would give credit to the town, especially Trish Cassady. Everybody worked together and without the Picones’ help, we never would have gotten where we are.”

A developer sought to build a 55-and-over community with 378 homes on the site. Since the land was held under Chapter 61A regulations, the town had the right of first refusal to purchase the property as non-agricultural use was proposed for the land.

Article 24 of the Special Town Meeting Warrant allows $586,032 out of free cash to be used toward the town’s 50 percent match of the agricultural restriction on the farmland.

Article 25 allows the town to use $181,984 out of free cash toward the purchase of the property.

Article 26 lets the town take $736,984 out of community preservation money toward the purchase of the property. Voters at a 2021 Special Town Meeting approved $1 million of community preservation money for the project.

All three articles passed unanimously, and the first and third received applause from those in attendance.

“One of the reasons I supported the Community Preservation Act was because of the importance of that land,” said Select Board Member Brian Giovanoni. “At some point it was going to come up, and I’m very excited we were able to preserve that property.”

Giovanoni said in the meeting that the Select Board “enthusiastically recommends favorable action” on the articles.

Before voting on the articles, residents questioned Town Manager Robert Nunes, the Select Board, and Cassady to ensure the land is used in the town’s best interests.

One concern related to the land being preserved for “open space purposes,” and Cassady confirmed that agriculture falls under that use.

“We have beautiful land,” said Middleboro resident Cindy Carey. “We need to make it work for us.”

The town intends to use its portion of the land for trails and community gardens to combat food insecurity, according to Cassady.

The remaining cost of the project, about $3.7 million, will be covered by outside sources.

In recent years, Picone Farm has been used to grow hay. Residents who rely on the farm to feed their animals will be able to purchase hay at the farm for another year, according to Cassady.