In its latest effort to support and expand local farming on the island, the Nantucket Land Bank on Tuesday issued a request for proposals to farm roughly nine acres of its Mount Vernon Farm property off Hummock Pond Road.
The land surrounds the Cisco Brewers property, and is part of the Land Bank’s larger 26-acre farm that it acquired from the Powers family for $1.2 million in 1997.
Agriculture is one of three pillars of the Land Bank’s enabling legislation - along with conservation and recreation - and the organization has put a renewed focus on expanding agricultural opportunities on its properties in recent years.
The Mount Vernon Farm, which has been used for agriculture as far back as the 1850s, is currently utilized by Sustainable Nantucket - which leases seven acres from the Land Bank for its Walter F. Ballinger Mentor Farmers Program and farmstand - as well as for livestock grazing, including horses and goats.
With the RFP issued on Tuesday, the Land Bank hopes to cultivate an unused nine–acre portion of Mount Vernon Farm through a five-year license to a farmer who submits the best proposal.
“The selected Farmer will be expected to play a stewardship role and be a public representative of the Land Bank in managing this agricultural property. Preference will be given to agricultural business responses that include public benefit as well as consideration of the environmental importance and aesthetic character of the property,” the Land Bank stated in its RFP application. “Collaborative farming endeavors which incorporate multiple farmers or farm businesses are encouraged.”
Proposals are due back to the Land Bank by 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
When Mount Vernon Farm was sold in 1997, the deal with the Powers family included restrictions that allowed them to continue farming the property for 99 years. The family continued the agricultural use until May 2014, when the Land Bank purchased the 1997 restrictions for an additional $1 million. Three years later in March of 2017, the Land Bank Commission voted in favor of a resolution formally designating Mount Vernon Farm as an agricultural property.
“Much of Nantucket was historically farmed, however agriculture has steadily declined since the 1850’s, when there were nearly 100 farms documented on the island,” Land Bank executive director Jesse Bell said. “A community‐wide interest in sustainability has highlighted the benefits of locally grown food and as a result, the Land Bank Commission has been exploring ways to further support and expand opportunities for farming…Over the past few years, the Land Bank has been working with the American Farmland Trust to understand the needs of the Nantucket farming community and providing access to farmland was deemed a top priority.”
Just over the past year, the Land Bank awarded a license to Fogtown Farm’s Aidan and Natasha Feeney to farm its Eat Fire Spring property in Wauwinet, and also acquired Berry Patch Farm off Hawthorne Lane from Ray Owen for $6 million.
For the unused portion of Mount Vernon Farm that the Land Bank is soliciting proposals for, applicants will be evaluated by a committee appointed by Bell. Responses will be assessed using a categorical grading system that includes the tiers: “Highly Advantageous, Advantageous, and Not Advantageous.”
The evaluation criteria include:
1. Experience Managing, Operating and Maintaining a Farm
2. References Regarding Farm Management, Operations and/or Maintenance Performance
3. Operational Plans
4. Marketing and Business Plan
5. Property Specific Alignment