Vets Organization Wants to Turn Tattersall Back into Working Farm

After nearly 70 years, Haverhill’s Tattersall Farm could become a working agricultural property again, if trustees can be persuaded to allow a veterans services organization to locate there.

Derek Heins of Plaistow, N.H., operates New England Veterans Agriculture Resource, a program that helps veterans transition from the military to the civilian world.

As a bonus, the agricultural industry gains well-trained farmers, Heins said.

The 85-acres at Tattersall Farm was donated to the city and is managed by a seven-member board of directors that controls activity on the property. Its use is limited to passive recreation. The board hasn’t embraced his proposal, and the current tenant has denied the organization access to the property, Heins said.

“I know there has been difficulty with use of the property, but we have done the research and can operate within the parameters the board has set,” Heins said.

The farm, at 542 N. Broadway, meets all the New England Veterans Agriculture Resource organization’s criteria. It would remain open to the public for all uses currently allowed there, but the presence of a working farm would allow local residents, especially children, to see livestock and learn about how their food is grown and produced. Heins said.

“We believe our cause is noble and obviously our plan is extremely viable,” Heins said. “It does not involve city funds in any way.”

The returning veterans would participate in a three-year program, with the first year consisting of lessons on all facets of farming, including care of livestock, planting field crops, growing plants in a greenhouse, and caring for trees in an orchard, Heins said.

All the produce would be donated to local food pantries. Heins said he has no wish to compete against any commercial farms operating in the city.

The remaining two years would involve working with established local farmers, Heins said.

The organization plans to partner with the University of Massachusetts, Veterans Administration, Labor Department and the city.

Heins asked the council to pass along a good word to the farm’s trustees.

“Please help us in establishing open lines of communication and perhaps some motivation (for the board) to work with us,” Henis said.

Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien said she supports Heins’ effort, but admits he may face an uphill battle.

“I’m not surprised by their reaction to your proposal,” Daly O’Brien said of the farm’s directors.

Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan suggested Heins attend the Jan. 17 meeting of the farm board. The council’s Natural Resources subcommittee, which Sullivan chairs, will also look at the proposal to see if there is some way the council can work with the farm’s managers to get the project off the ground.