Rick Tracy & Maureen Dempsey
Intervale Farm, Westhampton
Stewardship of the land and their community isn’t an abstract concept for Rick Tracy and Maureen Dempsey – it’s a way of life, and a key to the success of their business. Everything they do at Intervale Farm in Westhampton is geared toward maintaining their land in a productive state, supporting their family and their community. That’s not bad, considering they started with what Rick described as “an overgrown vegetable garden.”
After transforming that tangled patch back into productive farmland, Rick and Maureen now grow vegetables to sell at farmers’ markets and their farmstand, as well as run a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm where 40 members buy shares in return for fresh, weekly produce. Along with farming, Rick and Maureen carry on the family tradition of “doing their part” in the community. Both have served on a number of town boards and on the board of the Hilltown Land Trust. And Rick serves on the local fire department.
The direction that Rick and Maureen have taken Intervale Farm is not unusual. In fact, their care of the land and their community is a practical approach for taking a family farm and making it viable in today’s times, and hopefully into the future. Rick’s grandparents, Richard H. (Dick) and Evelyn Tracy, bought the property in 1936, making Rick the third generation of the Tracy family to farm Intervale. Until 1980, Intervale was a dairy, one that Rick had little interest in taking it over. At that time, Rick was studying agronomy at Penn State. The summer between his junior and senior years, Rick came home and grew vegetables, selling them at the Northampton and Holyoke Farmers’ Markets. The seed of Intervale’s future was planted.
Intervale Farm now consists of 10 acres growing produce and flowers. Farmers’ Markets in Northampon, Florence and Easthampton continue to be a large part of the farm’s customer base. Rick and Maureen’s small CSA farm offers a wide range of vegetables, as they know many of their customers seek out and appreciate that variety. True to form for many small farms, Rick and Maureen’s family have worked on the farm, including Rick’s mother, Janice, and their son, Andy.
Rick’s parents still own Intervale Farm, all of which is enrolled in Chapter 61, a program that supports agriculture by reducing taxes on the land. Most of Intervale’s 240 acres are woodlands, with about 30 acres of tillable land. Over the years, they have cut firewood and timber, primarily doing selective logging to maintain the property. Some of the land is in pasture, and they raise about 20 sheep and their own beef animals. They rent hay land to the dairy across the street and raise enough hay for their own sheep. Greenhouses help them extend the growing season. Taken together, the little things add up to support the land and make the farm business work.
Along with maintaining their own land, Rick and Maureen’s work with the Hilltown Land Trust helps their community take care of the larger landscape of Hampshire County’s hilltowns. Rick and Maureen’s goals for Intervale Farm dovetail perfectly with the Hilltown Land Trust’s goals of preserving working farmland and the rural character of the area. Together they’re helping sustain a way of life that supports their farm, family and community.
By Mary McClintock, from the The Highland Communities Initiative My Place is the Highlands series. Reprinted with permission.