By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – The owners of one of Westborough's last working farms have recently decided to put their beautiful 50-acre property up for sale. But town officials and other residents should not fear that the property, known as Glenrock Farms, will turn into a multi-family neighborhood or commercial lot. Thanks to the foresight of the owners, Brian and Susan Ashworth, and the town itself, the property has had an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) status since the 1980s. That designation ensures that the property must stay in its natural state – as it is now – for perpetuity.
The home, which is located at the corner of Glen Street and Route 30, was built circa 1720 by Reuben Maynard. It had been abandoned for several years until Brian Ashworth's parents, Servetus and Jesslyn, bought it at the tail end of the Great Depression.
In 1947, the family moved into a small barn on the property so the main house could be dismantled and renovated, including adding a new concrete foundation.
“They numbered and saved every piece of timber so it could be put back into place,” Brian recalled. “They did add some new window sills, flooring and other improvements, mainly in the kitchen, but it still has the character of the 1720 home.”
Over time, the family also purchased additional nearby property, including the 35-acre Roscoe Whittmore farm on Glen Street. Currently the main house sits on two acres; 22 acres are used as farm land. Throughout the years, the family has sold eggs and beef from their livestock, used the land for making hay and growing produce and flowers for local establishments.
Brian purchased part of the property from his parents in the early mid-1970s and then the remainder in 1985. It was during the early 1980s, he said, that the family first considered requesting an APR status for the farm. The APR program, according to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, pays a property owner “the difference between “fair market value” and “agricultural value” of their farmland in exchange for a permanent deed restriction which precludes any use of the property that will have a negative impact on its agricultural viability.”
In some cases it is the state that pays that difference; in the case of Glenrock Farms, it was the town of Westborough. As a result, it is the town that now holds the development rights to the property. Under the APR agreement, the owners, current and future, still retain full right of ownership for the property. ?But the APR is very specific about what can and cannot be done there.
The Ashworths currently use a portion of the property for growing hay. They also have a small herd of Belted Galloways which they have been slowly reducing as they have prepared to sell the property. Other future uses that would be allowed include an equestrian facility, Christmas tree farm or even a small winery.
Brian noted that after over seven decades in the Ashworth family, it was time for him and his wife to turn the property over to new stewards. It will not be a member of the family however; the couple's children, daughter Destiny and son Eran, he said, are not interested in purchasing the property.
“They grew up here but have different interests and we respect that – we'se proud of their accomplishments,” he said.
“I hope that we can find someone who a vision for the farm, maybe a different direction, and that this will be the perfect location for that vision,” he added.
Brian said he and Susan have not finalized any particular plans about where they will next move.
“We's just like to take our time to travel around and see some of this great country of ours,” he said.