Leyden Farmer’s ‘Lasting Legacy’ Protects Rolling Pastureland

The Recorder, November 27, 2016, by Shelby Ashline

Warren Facey’s commitment to land conservation has its roots in his childhood, when he formed some of his fondest memories by visiting Fiske Farm, where his grandfather grew up.

“As a little guy, I was pretty proud of that farm,” said Facey, 73.

But, when Facey was 6 years old, his family was forced to sell the farm, which was on Barton Road in Greenfield. Facey recalls watching, distraught, as the rolling pastures gave way to construction.

“Watching those fields grow up to houses wasn’t what I liked,” Facey said.

Later in life, Facey purchased his 270-acre Bree-Z-Knoll Farm in Leyden and Wright Farm in Greenfield. Bree-Z-Knoll became the founding farm in the Our Family Farms dairy cooperative, and Facey felt inspired to see his land be protected against development.

Because Facey successfully got 962 Leyden acres conserved, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust recently awarded Facey the Conservator of the Region Award. According to Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust’s Executive Director Leigh Youngblood, the award has been given annually since 2006 to an individual who “has protected their own land, but also gone to extraordinary efforts to protect land across the region.”

Facey’s land features many steep hills and woodlands, which he said made it ineligible for Massachusetts conservation programs that only protect cropland. When the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs decided to fund a new program that would protect a minimum of 500 contiguous acres, Facey knew it could be a great opportunity for Leyden.

Facey started work on the Leyden Landscape Partnership Project from 2012 to 2014, which culminated in his conserving 962 total acres of his land and land owned by 12 of his neighbors. An additional property was conserved in Colrain.

“He’s definitely made extraordinary efforts to protect land,” Youngblood said. “(The project) was so strongly supported in the town of Leyden and will just be a lasting legacy for the whole community.”

In addition to conserving the property, Facey has been a board member for Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust for five years, the Leyden Planning Board and the Leyden Agricultural Commission.