‘Party in the Hollow’ to benefit Mount Grace land trust

Greenfield Recorder, May 19, 2017, by Recorder Staff

WENDELL — Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust is planning a “Party in the Hollow” as a benefit to help it preserve more than 700 acres of farms and forests in Montague and Wendell this year.

The event, planned for June 4 at Diemand Farm on Mormon Hollow Road, will feature local food, live music, and local art vendors, all to benefit farm conservation and to aid the land trust’s Mormon Hollow Working Lands Initiative.

The initiative, which will help 10 farm families and their neighbors permanently protect about 700 acres of farms, woodlands, and wildlife areas “to ensure Western Massachusetts residents have access to fresh local food, walking and hiking trails, clean water and the beautiful scenery that makes Franklin County and the Pioneer Valley a great place to live, work, and play,” say organizers at the Athol-based nonprofit organization.

“These beautiful properties collectively complete a corridor of protected land from the Connecticut River to the Quabbin Reservoir,” said Jamie Pottern, Mount Grace’s farm conservation program manager. “We’re helping neighbors conserve over 700 acres of working farms and forests, wildlife habitat, wetlands and streams, while creating miles of new recreational trail connections and increasing climate change resiliency for our region.”

Stretching from the headwaters of Mormon Hollow Brook near Wendell Center, the project largely runs across the periphery of Wendell State Forests, establishes a 30,000-acre wildlife corridor from the Connecticut River to Quabbin Reservoir with the help of a $790,300 state Landscape Partnership Grant and cooperation from the two towns and the state Department of Fish and Game. The department purchased property near the Connecticut River that will become part of the Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area.

“The goal of the festival is to raise awareness and money to save farms in the Pioneer Valley,” said Jay Rasku, Mount Grace community conservation director. In addition to raising the remaining money to wrap up the working lands project by a June 30 deadline, he said, it’s hoped that the event will also help Mount Grace’s future efforts to preserve farmland.

The party will begin at 10 a.m. with a 7-kilometer “Chicken Run” trail race along a rugged and scenic trail through Wendell State Forest. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be tours of the farm and land, artworks for display and sale by area vendors, farm animals and children’s activities, and stories celebrating our local farmers.

There will be food and drink from Diemand Farm, Flayvors Ice Cream, Dean’s Beans, and Element Brewery, and music will be provided by The Equalites, Shokazoba and The Gaslight Tinkers. Diemand Farm BBQ lunch will be served from noon to 2 p.m. for a charge.

“Diemand Farm is happy to work with our neighbors the Faceys, the Kellers, and the Smiths and others on the Mormon Hollow Corridor Project,” said Anne Diemand Bucci, who with her sister and brother Faith and Peter, is conserving a pasture and woodland on their farm. “To ensure that farmland will remain farmland is a comfort to us all.”

All tickets must be purchased in advance from, with reduced-price tickets available until May 25 — and free admission for children 12 and under. Tickets are also available by calling Mount Grace at 978-248-2055 Ext. 15. There is a separate registration fee for the Chicken Run, with the first 50 entries receiving a free T-shirt.

The project, which grew out of efforts to protect the 74-acre Sugarbush Farm, which lies between the Diemand Farm, the Kellers’ Jerusalem Hill Farm, and Hidden Valley in Wendell, incorporates part of the New England National Scenic Trail, the Robert Frost Trail, and destinations like Mormon Hollow Ledges, Fiske Pond Conservation Area, and Jerusalem Hill Summit.

Laurel Facey, who owns Sugarbush Farm with her husband, Bill, said “This important location connects conserved lands which promote not only agriculture but also wildlife of all kinds. In the past, development ideas included an air field, a ski slope and possibly a golf course, and we are very happy it is to be conserved for farming.”