Friday, April 2, 2004
Unpredictability is theme of Duffy's farm report
The uncertainties of temperature and rainfall are not the only question marks in a farmer's professional life. Just ask the town's Cranberry Bog lease-holder and Great Brook Farm State Park dairyman Mark Duffy.
Cranberry yields up, prices down
Appearing at the Conservation Commission's March 25 meeting, Duffy gave his annual report on operations at the Cranberry Bog on Curve Street and the hay field he mows at Foss Farm off Bedford Road. As for the bog, he termed the 2003 season "a mixed bag." On the plus side, he met the state average for yield, and in reference to his acreage renewal program, reported, "The new stuff is doing quite well." The area currently in the earlier stages of revival has been sanded; however, because he has not yet been paid for the 2003, crop he has not installed added irrigation facilities. "We're not going to spend money until we have it in hand," he explained. On the negative side Duffy said, "I wish I could be optimistic about the coming year, but I fear that cranberry prices are going to fall again."
Flume repair setback
Also disconcerting to both farmer and commission is a glitch that has developed over a broken flume in the waterway upstream of the bog. The structure is located in the Chelmsford portion of the Cranberry Bog Reservation and was due to be repaired by Duffy, using funds provided by the Town of Chelmsford. In a recent communication from Chelmsford's Director of Community Development Andrew Sheehan, the Commission was informed that his municipality's town counsel and town manager have told him Duffy can not do work on their town land because of liability concerns. Therefore, they want their Department of Public Works to do the job, and Duffy or the Town of Carlisle to pay for the materials. Given his financial uncertainties, the farmer has made an application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a grant from the "Equip Money" program.
Duffy is particularly concerned about the flume, because he can't keep the upper reservoir full, "which could mean trouble if we have a dry summer." If there is a drought, Duffy's only resource would be to draw down Heart Pond, also in Chelmsford. Though he has the legal water right to do so, it would make him "very unpopular" with the people who live on its periphery.
Fees impact park attendace, ice cream stand profits
Concurrently, the dairyman finds himself in negotiation with the state over the $2 parking fee inaugurated last year at Great Brook, which has had a devastating effect on his ice cream stand profits. He reports that attendance at the park is "way down" and the state is concerned. "I'm working hard on that one," he assured his listeners.
Bog House repairs
The Commission was relieved to learn that a carpenter has been retained to rebuild the outside stairway to the third floor apartment at the Bog House, which Duffy leases for equipment storage and living space for an employee. In return, he has been renovating the ancient structure and providing a presence at the rather isolated property.
At Foss Farm, mowing has been initiated to keep the hard-stemmed weeds at bay. As for the hayfield, it was sown to alfalfa and orchard grass last season and, said Duffy, "All I can do now is wait and see what comes up."
© 2004 The