Chilmark has the farm, needs a farmer

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Chilmark selectmen will host an open house between 9 am and noon Saturday, to speak with farmers interested in the long-term lease of a historic 17th century farmhouse and about 20 acres of surrounding fields at the corner of Tea Lane and Middle Road.

The proposal to lease the farm followed the rejection by voters, over the past two years, of two plans to renovate the farmhouse, one at a cost of $300,000 and the other at a cost of $550,000.

Selectmen now want to lease the property to someone who will agree to both preserve the farmhouse and establish a working farm.

Selectmen, at their meeting Tuesday, reviewed a 30-page draft lease for the property that would allow a resident farmer to lease the land and adjoining fields owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank for 75 years for a one-time lease payment of $20,000.

In a telephone conversation, selectman Warren Doty told The Times the town is still adjusting the proposal and wants to hear from people with a knowledge of farming. “Instead of making up a farm plan and telling people what we want them to do,” he said, “we thought we would like to get prospective farmers to come to an open house at the farm and have them look around and tell us what they could do.”

Mr. Doty said the buildings would become the property of the lessee who would agree to make specific renovations to the farmhouse, in keeping with its historic character. Mr. Doty said the lease still needs a value-added formula that would allow the buildings to be sold at some point in the future.

“This is not an affordable housing project, this is a farming project,” Mr. Doty said. “And it’s a three-acre lot, so it conforms to Chilmark zoning, so we do not have to follow any guidelines. What we want is a good farming proposal.”

In April 2001, the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank and the town combined to protect the 40-acre Silva farmstead on Middle Road in Chilmark at the northwest corner of the intersection of Tea Lane and Middle Road.

Under the terms of a combined purchase, the town bought the farmhouse and farm buildings and three acres of surrounding property for $250,000 from owners Walter, Elmer, and Robert Silva and Clara Rabbitt. The Land Bank bought the remaining property.

Chilmark voters approved their portion of the purchase at a special town meeting on April 23, 2001.

Bobby Silva was a familiar sight working in the fields or tending his cows. The agreement provided Mr. Silva with life tenancy. He died on February 8, 2010.

The following hand out provided by Chilmark selectmen will be available at the open house:

Tea Lane Farm Open House

January 7, 2012

Purpose: The purpose of today’s open house is to help the Town of Chilmark determine if there is interest among potential farmers to lease the three-acre Tea Lane Farm land from the Town of Chilmark and the adjoining 15-acre parcel of land owned by the Land Bank for the purpose of living on the farm and commercially farming the land. The Town will award ownership of the existing buildings to the successful applicant-lessee with the best farm plan for renovation as needed. The selected recipient will be required to live on the farm for a minimum of 11 months per year.

The following is a possible outline of how the farm lease will be structured. Everything listed is still a work in progress and subject to Town Meeting approval.

Historic Tea Lane Farmhouse: The original structure of the farmhouse is over 250 years old and an important Town historic resource. There will be specific guidelines for exterior renovations.

A possible example: Prior Approval Required For Exterior Modifications

Unless prior written approval by the Historic Commission and by the Board of Selectmen is obtained, no alteration, physical or structural change, or changes in the color, material or surfacing to the exterior of the Tea Lane Farm House shall be made. The Historic Commission shall be provided with plans showing to scale architectural drawings of all affected elevations for any proposed exterior renovations.

In no case shall the house be expanded beyond the current footprint, except for a one time increase, if desired, of 120 square feet to the East side of the house toward the rear. The house shall not be demolished.

Ground Lease: The three-acre parcel of land that accommodates the farmhouse and barn will be leased to the successful applicant for a one-time, up front lease payment of $20,000 for a lease term of 75 years. The adjoining 15-acre parcel of farm land will be leased from the Land Bank for a nominal lease payment.

The buildings and improvements with appreciation may be sold by the owner if so desired with certain restrictions. The land lease(s) would be transferred to the new tenant and farmer.

New Buildings and Improvements: There will be certain limits to building additional new structures and improvements to the property. For example, the farmer will be allowed to have one barn apartment. A guesthouse may not be built on the property.

Possible Historic Farmhouse Improvement Grant: With prior town approvals, a one-time Community Preservation Act (CPA) Historic Preservation Grant may be awarded to a successful applicant. The purpose is to help fund certain improvements to the historic farmhouse.

Farm Plan Applications: The Town will require applicants to submit a detailed farm plan. Here is a broad outline of the application requirements:

Tea Lane Farm

Draft Proposal for a Farm Plan

Proposals from Island Residents to lease the land and farmhouse at Tea Lane Farm in Chilmark should include the following seven categories. Proposals should be submitted to the Chilmark Board of Selectmen by ______________.

Use of Land and Buildings for farming.

The Farm includes approximately 18 areas for farm production, a mixture of crop and pasture land. 15 acres are owned by the MV Land Bank and will be leased to the farmer by the Land Bank. Three acres are to be leased from the Town of Chilmark and include the farmhouse, a garage, a barn, and other outbuildings.

Production Plan.

What crops will be grown, what animals raised, what products will be sold? The plan should detail quantities of products expected to be produced for sale.

Marketing Plan.

How is the farm product to be sold? Direct marketing, farm market, wholesale outlets, etc.

Business Plan.

The Farm Plan should include a business plan predicting farm costs and farm sales. This should be for a five year period.

Proposed Use of Farm Buildings.

The farm currently contains five farm buildings. They are in various states of repair. The farm plan should contain a plan for use of these buildings.

Use of the Farmhouse.

The Farm Plan should include a plan for the main house. Who will live in it? What repairs are necessary? How will those repairs be financed? How will the historic structure be maintained?

Experience of Applicant.

The Farm Plan should include the qualifications and experience of the farmer. The town needs to feel that the new resident is capable of a successful farm operation.

Rough Timing:

If you are interested in learning more and submitting a farm proposal please provide the following contact information. We will include you in all future updates.

By January 13, 2012: Please email or mail your name, mailing address, phone number and email address to:

Chuck Hodgkinson

Chilmark Town Hall

P.O. Box 119

Chilmark, MA. 02535

chodgkinson@chilmarkma.gov

508-645-2114