DNRT Center @ Helfand Farm
The DNRT Center at Helfand Farm, located at 318 Chase Road, has been DNRT's headquarters since 2016.
DNRT’s journey to this new home started in 2013 when the 35-acre property and circa 1835 farmhouse was bequeathed to us by the Helfand family, who had owned it since 1912 and wanted to see it preserved for future generations. Coincidentally, DNRT had established a Facilities Planning Committee in 2013 to address DNRT’s physical space needs for staff, volunteers, equipment, meetings, and events. After nearly a year of studying alternatives, the Committee recommended the Helfand Farm site for a new headquarters, and the Facilities Planning Committee transitioned into a Building Committee in June 2014.
With guidance from the Dartmouth Historical Commission and support from the Dartmouth Community Preservation Committee and over 200 generous donors, DNRT rehabilitated the early 19th Century farmhouse, replacing severely rotted sills, framing, and structural columns, and changing the vinyl siding, windows, and front door to elements faithful to the building's original characteristics. The interior layout and architectural features – much of which was original to its construction – were restored. A new wing was added to provide needed workspace for staff, committees, board functions, and volunteers’ support activities. We also added a conference room and adjacent patio where DNRT can host events, meetings, and educational programs in support of land preservation and management. Highly efficient insulation and rooftop solar panels reduce DNRT’s carbon footprint. Furthermore, a new barn, constructed next to an historic silo on the farm, supports DNRT’s growing land management responsibilities.
For it's work to rehabilitate the historic farmhouse at Helfand Farm, DNRT was nominated for the Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Award by the Dartmouth Historical Commission and received the Waterfront Historic Area League's prestigious "Sarah R. Delano Preservation Award."
History of the farm
For nearly 200 years, the farm at 318 Chase Road has been home to generations of farmers, carpenters, tradesmen, seagoing whalers, dairymen, and prominent citizens of Dartmouth. The farm was occupied by the Barker and Potter families and their relatives through the 19th Century… and after 1912 by Sam, William, and Henry Helfand, their children, grandchildren, and cousins. In 1996 the family generously placed the Helfand Farm in a trust for DNRT to ensure that its serene and fertile fields would remain forever in agriculture. DNRT received title to the farm from the Helfand Family in 2013 and later decided to move its headquarters to this property. Approximately 25 acres of the 37-acre property is rich farmland and used by a local farmers. In addition, several acres are used by the non-profit Helfand Farm Community Gardens which offers garden plots for rent.
Photos courtesy of Neil Alexander
The following are just a few highlights of DNRT’s work over the years:
A few Dartmouth residents band together to try to purchase and protect the 150-acre Star of the Sea property at the head of Apponagansett Bay. Although they make an offer and put a down payment on the property, the property owner sells the property to a developer without notifying the Dartmouth group. Although the initial conservation effort fails, the loss of Star of the Sea galvanizes public opinion and leads to the incorporation of the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust. (Since this time, DNRT and the Dartmouth Conservation Commission have been able to mitigate the development at Star of the Sea by protecting a total 104 acres there.)
DNRT receives its first land donation: 19 acres of saltwater marshland and two small islands on the west bank of the Slocum’s River, given by Carl and Phyllis Grosswendt, now called the Grosswendt Reserve.
DNRT receives its first conservation restriction: 40 acres adjacent to the Little River, given by William and Louise Pinney.
Karen G. Cribbs (Lloyd) gives DNRT the 55-acre “Katharine Nordell Lloyd Center for Environmental Studies” on the banks of the Slocum’s River. In 1985, the Lloyd Center becomes a separate non-profit entity.
DNRT opens office at Old Southworth Library on Elm Street.
In its first land purchase project, DNRT raises over $200,000 to buy 54 acres adjacent to the Smith Farm property, expanding that Reserve to 137 acres.
DNRT hires its first full-time employee, an Administrator, which evolves into the Executive Director position.
DNRT hires permanent part-time Land Manager to help steward its growing number of Reserves and conservation restrictions. The position becomes full-time in 1999.
DNRT receives a donation of 112 acres along the Shingle Island River. (DNRT now protects over 2,500 feet of frontage along this important waterway.)
DNRT and the Trustees of Reservations close on the acquisition of Destruction Brook Woods, thus completing Phase III of the 3-year $8 million “Slocum’s River Conservation Project,” which protected a total of 1,053 acres in Dartmouth, including the Slocum’s River Reserve and the Dartmoor Farm Wildlife Management Area (now owned by the state).
DNRT completes the Hixville Conservation Project (HCP), protecting three properties totaling 158-acres (collectively known as our Ridge Hill Reserves) off Collins Corner Road in North Dartmouth. In 2007, DNRT protects another 52 acres in this location, thereby linking the Ridge Hill Reserves with the 13,000 acre “Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve.”
DNRT acquires a 40-acre addition to its Little River Reserve, thus creating a block of 350 acres of protected land between Potomska Road and Little River.
DNRT helps the Trustees of Reservations raise over $2 million protect the 131-acre Cornell Farm on Smith Neck Road.
In collaboration with the University of Massachusetts, The Trustees of Reservations and the Gustin Gallery, DNRT opens the first “River Project: Sculpture at Slocum’s River Reserve,” which exhibits 6 large-scale, site-specific sculptures through March 2010 (subsequent River Projects are held in 2012-13 and 2015-16).
DNRT purchases 54 acres at the head of Little River, further adding to Little River Reserve and resulting in the protection of a remarkable 60% of the Little River Watershed – over 700 acres total!
DNRT opens its “Little River Boardwalk Trail,” a walking trail with more than 700 feet of boardwalks across the head of Little River, connecting DNRT’s Frank Knowles-Little River Reserve with The Trustees of Reservations’ Cornell Farm.
DNRT achieves Land Trust Accreditation from the Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Commission, joining only 280 other land trusts – out of 1,700 nationwide – that have been awarded accreditation since the accreditation program began in the fall of 2008.
DNRT purchases Wernick Farm, 62 acres of woodlands, wetlands and open fields off North Hixville Road in North Dartmouth. With this acquisition, DNRT now exceeds 5,000 acres of land it has helped protect in Dartmouth.
DNRT launches a $1.2 million "Pathways Capital Campaign" to protect land in Dartmouth and build a dedicated home for itself. In late 2015 construction begins on the new "DNRT Center at Helfand Farm," which includes the rehabilitation of a circa-1835 farmhouse. DNRT would subsequently (in 2018) receive the prestigious "Sarah R. Delano Preservation Award" from the Waterfront Historic Area League (WHALE) in recognition of its “extraordinary restoration of Helfand Farm.”
DNRT celebrates its 45th Anniversary. In July, DNRT moves its office from the Old Southworth Library into the new “DNRT Center at Helfand Farm.”
DNRT partners with the Buzzards Bay Coalition and Round the Bend Farm to raise over $8 million to save the 115-acre Ocean View Farm. DNRT acquires 60 acres closest to Allens Pond for a new publicly-accessible reserve, while Round the Bend Farm expands their operation on the northern 55 acres.
DNRT once again partners with the Buzzards Bay Coalition - this time on a $3 million project to "Preserve Dartmouth's Coastal Farms." This results in the permanent protection of the 128-acre Apponagansett Bay Farm on Bakerville Road and the 21-acre "Eva's Garden" on Jordan Road. Nearly 80-acres of Apponagansett Bay Farm becomes DNRT's "Dike Creek Reserve" which opened in 2020.
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Pictured left to right: Deborah Cunha, Kendra Murray, Linda Vanderveer, Leah McFarland, and Dexter Mead
Board of Directors (May 2022– May 2023)
Clifford "Tip" Tracy