Several working farms in the area abut or share space with conservation land, giving you the opportunity to see local farms in action during the course of your adventure. As you take your stroll on these working lands, remember to keep to marked trails and not stray onto private property; by respecting farmers’ lands, you help ensure that visitors and farmers can continue to share these outdoor spaces.
The region’s retired farms – farmland that has been taken out of production – are particularly special places to walk. Open-field habitat is otherwise rare in Southeastern Massachusetts because much of it has been developed or given way to forest. As such, unusual plant species can grow here, taking advantage of constant sunlight that more common woodland species eschew. Bird of all sorts flock to these open spaces in pursuit of insects, while large predators like hawks and foxes take advantage of exposed fields to spot scuttling mice and other small prey.
Here are eight of our favorite farms where you can go for a walk:
1. Westport Town Farm (Westport)
Beautiful Westport Town Farm saw farming on its lands continuously for over 200 years, from its founding in the 1700s through its use as a communal “poor farm” for the needy from the mid-1800s until 1956. Today, the land holds both active and retired farmland, including a community garden, green pastures, hayfields, and an antique barn. A stroll through these rolling fields gives you a view of the best of Westport’s charms, bringing you from farmland down to brackish tidal marshes on the meandering Westport River East Branch.
2. Cornell Farm (Dartmouth)
The lands at Cornell Farm were worked by a single family for more than 150 years. In 2009, the Trustees and the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust created a partnership with the family to preserve much of the property as conservation land, as well as connect it with neighboring Frank Knowles/Little River Reserve. Today, the property still contains a private farmstead, carrying on its agriculture legacy. The farm’s walking trails lead you past a barn, grain silo, and active greenhouse, through vibrant gardens and cultivated fields, where you might spot grazing horses and even alpaca! Complete your walk with a meander through the woods and towards the rich salt marshes at the headwaters of Little River.
3. Ocean View Farm Reserve (Dartmouth)
Spectacular Ocean View Farm Reserve was conserved by the Coalition and the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust in 2017 and opened to the public this summer. Previously owned by one family since 1889, Ocean View Farm was one of the last tracts of undeveloped and unprotected coastal farmland on Buzzards Bay. This conserved land now serves both public exploration and continued agriculture, with walking trails leading past the barn and silos of Round the Bend Farm, a nonprofit working farm. Look out for grazing animals and flitting barn swallows as you walk along the farm’s fenced portion toward an observation platform that offers stunning salt marsh views.
4. LaPalme Farm (Acushnet)
LaPalme Farm’s peaceful woods and fields were once part of a dairy farm operated by nuns at the neighboring convent. Although there are no longer any cows here, the wide-open fields they used to graze are a haven for wildlife, including deer, foxes, rabbits, and a wide variety of birds. Stop by at dusk and you may even see — or hear! — a great horned owl hunting these fields and woods for dinner.
5. Shipyard Farm (Fairhaven)
A well-marked trail runs straight as an arrow through broad hayfields at Shipyard Farm, a working farm with the South Coast’s distinctive blend of bucolic charm and coastal beauty. Take your time in the hayfield to spot deer, rabbits, and flitting birds before reaching the coast, where you can take in crisp ocean air and views of vibrant salt marshes.
6. Davis-Douglas Farm (Plymouth)
The grounds of Davis-Douglas Farm were inhabited and worked by the Davis and Douglas families over the course of 125 years before the farm became the headquarters of the Wildlands Trust. The cows, pigs, chickens, and fields of produce — which once grew everything from corn to carrots to strawberries — are now gone, though Wildands Trust still maintains a community garden on the property. Visitors are welcome to wander the property’s fields and relax in the shade of its sprawling old trees, or use it as a launching pad to exploring the 230 acres of conservation land the trust maintains just across the street.
7. Bourne and Cardoza Farms (Falmouth)
Cardoza Farm and Bourne Farm are owned by the 300 Committee and Salt Bond Areas Bird Sanctuaries, respectively, but these small, closely linked properties together make for a perfect afternoon of exploration. Cardoza Farm, formerly planted with long rows of vegetables and strawberries sold at a roadside farmstand, is retired, and its property features both paths through the woods and open-field habitat scattered with old farm buildings. Bourne Farm was established in 1775 and is today listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This farm features both a restored farmhouse and an active pumpkin farm, as well as 14 acres of hilly woods with trails. You can get from one farm to the other via the Shining Sea Bikeway, which runs through both properties, as well as access neighboring Wing Pond Woods by way of Bourne Farm’s northernmost trails.
8. Peterson Farm (Falmouth)
The Weeks family worked this historic farm — which included sheep, cattle, orchards and cropland — from 1679 until 1949, when it sold to Captain John Peterson, who used it to grow fruits and vegetables for his hotel, the Cape Codder. This long pastoral history makes Peterson Farm the oldest on Cape Cod, as well as a fascinating place to spend a full day exploring! Not only does this farm feature an extensive network of nearly 7 miles of trails, including old farm roads and the foundation of one of its original barns, but it also was recently restored to working order, with two new shepherds bringing sheep back to these fields in the spring of 2018. Stop by to visit with the animals, learn a bit about how sheep help maintain the fields, and take a gorgeous walk through the property and into the forest at neighboring Beebe Woods.