Sunday, January 2, 2011

Pratt Farm

Stony Brook Road and Dam, Pratt Farm,
Middleborough, MA,
photograph by Mike Maddigan, December 27, 2004
Bellicose Bumpkin recently posted on his own blog an item recounting his self-described inelegant return to the world of cross-country skiing at the Pratt Farm on East Main Street after many years off skis. Athletic grace notwithstanding, as Bumpkin indicates, the farm offers residents a wonderful location for the pursuit of winter sports such as cross-country-skiing, snowshoeing and sledding, and his post has prompted one of his respondents, Judy Bigelow-Costa, to urge that future uses for the farm be considered. A number of possible uses which would take advantage of the farm’s expansive natural setting and provide recreational opportunities are suggested on Bumpkin’s site.

Not to be forgotten, however, are the educational uses to which the farm with its rich variety of flora and fauna might be put, including providing a deeper understanding of the area’s natural history and environmental changes (such as forest succession) over time.

In 1881, Paul Chadbourne, president of Williams College, entreated Massachusetts farmers to consider the educational value of the commonwealth’s farms.

It is superfluous, perhaps, for me to say more about the education of your children; but let me beseech you not to educate off the farm. After the simplest rudiments of reading, spelling, and arithmetic, and even with those, see that your children are taught to study nature, to delight in plants and animals and stones and chemical changes, - all the things that daily meet them on the farm…. The farm furnishes the whole range of plants and animal life upon which one can spend a lifetime of study.

Chadbourne’s appeal is no less meaningful one hundred and thirty years later.

In addition to being an instrument for a more meaningful understanding of local natural history, the Pratt Farm encompasses within its boundaries the capacity to provide insight into Middleborough’s cultural history, particularly in regards to pre-contact era Native American history and the town’s agricultural development over a two hundred year period from the mid-eighteenth century through the mid-twentieth century.  What truly makes the Pratt Farm an invaluable community resource is this precise conjunction of natural and cultural history, with recreational and conservation uses.


Mark Belanger said...

I couldn't have said it as elegantly Mike. Pratt Farm is a true jewel. Given it's proximity to downtown, it seems a bit underutilized - I use it often but don't see all that many people up there. Same goes for the Morgan property and the Weston Memorial Forest. I've always thought that the town could do a lot more to promote the use of these places. Maybe CPA can help with that.

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