Completed Land Protection Project

Prospect Hill Community Orchard

Benefits to Harvard’s Conservation Efforts

Funds Raised

The permanent protection of this highly scenic parcel of land, along with an easement that allows public access to the property in perpetuity, delivers exceptional value.  Nearly half of the $2+ million purchase price was committed by MDAR and the Federal Department of Agriculture, while the town’s Community Preservation Committee committed $300k. Remaining funds were raised among HCT, Sudbury Valley Trustees, Community Harvest Project, and private donors.

Based on the assessed value of the land, the organizations achieved the goal to raise $2.5 Million and to provide Community Harvest Project with the necessary funds to continue its operation of the orchard. HCT supported this effort, as the Prospect Hill Community Orchard offers both extraordinary conservation value and serves as a critical connection between significant parcels of conservation land.

About the Property

This 70.6-acre parcel contains approximately 35 acres of fruit trees (peaches and apples), 10 acres of open fields, 10 acres of forest, and a pond and stream.

Prized by the Harvard Conservation Trust’s earliest founders for its rare, uninterrupted view shed, this land is also a key link in an expansive area of permanently protected land. A proposed permanent trail easement running along the north / south boundary will provide public access.

Prospect Hill Community Orchard, with its stunning views and prime hilltop location, provides a rare opportunity to address both land conservation and hunger relief. The land rises to nearly 500 feet and affords stunning, panoramic views from Harvard’s Bare Hill Pond to Mt. Wachusett.

It is a remarkable property that, if preserved, would permanently protect a critical agricultural landmark while providing access to nearly 1,000 acres of open space. 

The orchard has been in operation for over 100 years and is part of the historic, agricultural fabric of Harvard and the region. It is currently owned and operated by Community Harvest Project (CHP), a 501(c)3 non-profit. CHP has its primary operation in Grafton, MA, where they engage volunteers who grow fresh fruits and vegetables to provide to those experiencing hunger.

The Prospect Hill Community Orchard was donated to CHP in 2014 as a means for CHP to expand upon their commitment to address food insecurity in our region. The orchard supplies apples and peaches to a variety of food banks and other hunger relief agencies in Worcester County.

The expense of operating the orchard without income has burdened CHP’s nonprofit model, forcing them to face a decision regarding their future – simply stated, CHP must choose to:

  • Offset capital and operating expenses for ongoing operation of the orchard by selling an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) on the property,

or

  • sell the property without restriction and solely operate the Grafton farm

Additionally, both the town’s Open Space Committee and Conservation Commission have identified the Prospect Hill Community Orchard as one of the highest priority parcels to protect, based on its agricultural use, areas of ecological significance, proximity to protected open space corridors, and wetlands and streams.

Partners