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Landowner stories resonate

Joan and Randy Walker talking with workshop participants in Barre.

Joan and Randy Walker talking with workshop participants in Barre.

This past week there were two opportunities to hear directly from landowners about how conservation of their family lands fit into estate planning. Thank you to Joan and Randy Walker, Frank Patterson and Mick Huppert for sharing their experiences and insights into challenging planning situations.

Fellow landowners from Barre and Oakham heard about the path that Joan and Randy Walker are on to ensure that the farm can remain a vibrant working farm for generations to come. That includes setting the land ownership up in a LLC, creating land-based businesses such as wood processing and grass-fed beef, and conserving a critical 96-acre area of fields and associated woods and wetlands in an Agricultural Preservation Restriction.

Frank Patterson and his siblings were challenged with how to keep the family farm as a working farm after their parents died several years ago. The end result was the sale of the woods to Mass Audubon and the Town of Barre purchased the development rights on the remaining agricultural lands. A private family purchased the house and remaining land. These steps met their goals and allowed the new family to engage in farming.

Mick Huppert shared their family history of moving into Barre and then Petersham over the years. The Hupperts purchased a woodlot with the idea that their daughters might want to move back to town, which turned out not to be part of the younger generations plans. With the new (2011) Conservation Land Tax Credit program possibilities, the Hupperts decided to donate that woodlot and received a Massachusetts tax credit in addition to the federal tax deduction.

These stories include themes of love of the land, responding to parents desires to see the farm continue, and hopes for future generations. By the actions of these three families more land is available for farm and forest management!

Kathy Ruhf, senior project coordinator at Land For Good, also spoke at the session in Barre. Ms. Ruhf has expertise in farmland transfer and farm business succession. A key part of Ms. Ruhf’s remarks shared the collaborative nature of assisting families through these transitions and the importance of starting now!

Thank you to the Barre Senior Center and Fobes Memorial Public Library for hosting these events. Partial funding came from the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation in collaboration with the Barre and Oakham Open Space Committees.

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