Norwell Farms Thanks Citizens for 10 Seasons at Jacobs Farm

August 13, 2019

On August 7 the Norwell Board of Selectmen voted in favor of licensing the fields at the Jacobs Farm property to Cross Street Flower Farm, rejecting Norwell Farms’ request for a license renewal after 10 seasons. The Board of Selectmen cited preference for licensing directly to a farmer, the ease of 1 instead of 2 licenses, and priority for the fields for commercial farming rather than education purposes, as to why they voted to license to the flower farm rather than divide the property for both entities to use. The Board of Selectmen offered protections for Norwell Farms to continue holding some events and education activities at the Jacobs Farm grounds. Norwell Farms will take the off-season to identify a new home base for our community food production and farm-based education activities.

We thank the residents of Norwell for their original trust in the Town to support a not-for-profit community vegetable farm. On behalf of current and many past board members and numerous volunteers, it has been a pleasure to provide the community with reasons to stop and visit a special historic gathering place, purchase locally-grown vegetables, and teach future generations about the importance of being outdoors, connecting with healthy foods, and the magic of nature. We also thank the incredible generosity of Norwell and South Shore small business owners, donors, and sponsors, who consistently reached out to support our fundraising efforts, events, and activities.

Norwell Farms was established as a not-for-profit community farm to provide food shares after a town vote in 2009 and has licensed from 1.6 to 7 acres of the historic Jacobs Farm property on Main Street in Norwell since 2010. Norwell Farms is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization from the first season, with the mission to provide farm-based educational programs for the greater Norwell community, community service outreach to increase access to fresh produce, and preservation of the historic open space. Within 6 months of operation in 2010, Norwell Farms -- supported by countless volunteers, donations, and a Town start-up fund -- provided weekly vegetables for 165 households, donated 650 pounds of fresh produce to the Norwell Food Pantry, and logged over 700 volunteer hours. Norwell Farms has since invested significantly in the Jacobs Farm property, bringing it up to modern day farming, including a well and irrigation to over 3 acres, electricity to the barn, installation of a green house, soil fertility, and other critical upgrades. Funds to support these endeavors in the past 9 years were raised largely through private donations, fundraising efforts, and Town Community Preservation funds. The size and scope of Norwell Farms operations have fluctuated in the past 10 seasons, depending largely on the capacity of the resident farmer. Without a full-time commercial farmer in 2018 and 2019, Norwell Farms sublicensed the Jacobs Farm fields to Cross Street Flower Farm for the remainder of the license, December 31, 2019.

After a successful year of fundraising in 2018 and the hiring of farm education director Kate Bilezikian, Norwell Farms’ educational programming was experiencing an upswing. In 2019 Norwell Farms had 71 youth enrolled in our summer programs, over 50 community volunteers, and hosted hands-on field trips for dozens of Norwell School classrooms, Scout troops, and other local organizations.

Norwell Farms is operated by a volunteer Board of Directors, currently 7 members, all residents or employees in Norwell. Our 5-year strategic plan for the 2020 license renewal proposed to  relinquish back to the Town 5 acres of fields, while retaining use of the front field most heavily invested in and use of the barns for farming and educational program infrastructure, 1.6 acres total. We were enthusiastic about the viability and long-term  sustainability of this condensed, but no less impactful future for Norwell Farms. Our plans for the 0.77 acres of tillable farmland in the front field included a staff and volunteer-run vegetable garden, perennials, a significantly expanded learning garden, pumpkin patch, and other rotating crops. The goal was to bring the community access to fresh local produce while greatly enhancing the farm-based educational and volunteer offerings.

We look forward to completing our 2019 programs and encourage residents to attend our free children’s story time (every other Wednesday) and 2 remaining free Pop-Up Farm Nights (August 22 and September 19 from 4-7pm) at Norwell Farms (4 Jacobs Lane, Norwell). Our annual fall fundraiser “Evening at Norwell Farms” is cancelled, while we focus on our next steps. Norwell Farms will take the off-season to attempt to identify a new home base for our farming and farm-based education activities. We are optimistic in this search and hope we will continue to grow for years to come. We welcome input and ideas from the community for 2020 and beyond. Please email info@norwellfarms.org.