State agriculture officials celebrate farm program’s anniversary in Franklin County

More than 900 Massachusetts farms participate in the APR program

SUNDERLAND, Mass. (WWLP)-The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources created the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program back in 1977.

State agriculture officials visited the Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland Friday to celebrate the program’s 40th anniversary.

“This was the first state program created in the country to preserve our best agricultural land,” said John Lebeaux, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

In this program, Massachusetts farmers’ land is permanently protected from development. In order to qualify, the farm must be a minimum of five acres and have high quality soil. The Kitchen Garden Farm is one of more than 900 Massachusetts farms participating in the APR program. They wouldn’t have been able to start their farm without it.

“It made the land affordable for us and we have been able to access a few other APR parcels at agricultural value as the farm has expanded,” said Caroline Pam, Co-Owner of Kitchen Garden Farm.

Pam told 22News they also own property in Whately, which now makes up more than half of their total farm land. They grow root vegetables, leafy greens, and a variety of chili peppers, which they use to make their sriracha sauce.

State agriculture officials also visited a Hatfield dairy farm, and Mt. Sugarloaf in Deerfield to commemorate the program’s 40th anniversary.