PITTSFIELD -- Herman Melville's historic Pittsfield home will see new life this spring, after the Community Development Board on Tuesday gave swift approval for a small working farm on the property.
The Arrowhead estate, located on 44 acres off Holmes Road and the home where Melville wrote his masterpiece "Moby-Dick," is operated as a historic site by the Berkshire County Historical Society. The group plans to use about six acres for vegetable and herb gardens and to raise chickens and eventually rabbits, Executive Director Betsy Sherman told board members.
Sherman, Kristen Laney, who will act as farm manager and oversee a Community Supported Agriculture program there, and Peter Bergman of the society explained the plan and displayed an enlarged photo of the property taken in 1870 when it was being farmed.
They said that in cooperation with community groups, there will be a chance for educational programs and to practice sustainable agriculture, and the activity is expected to lure more visitors and programming to the historic site.
Laney said she'll begin working at the site in the spring and will start small with the CSA program, offering 10 community shares, which can in turn be divided into half shares. With a CSA, members purchase shares and receive produce, meat, eggs or other agricultural products.
Laney said she can envision a CSA with about 200 shares, but by utilizing other parcels around the area, not by expanding on the Arrowhead site.
Bergman said the organization operating Steepletop, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay's historic property in Austerlitz, N.Y., began a similar agricultural component and interest in the site increased. "I can see this enhancing everything we do at Arrowhead," he said.
Laney and Sherman said a chicken coop will be constructed and there will be about 25 hens at first to produce eggs.
The board unanimously approved the site plan and re-establishment of the agricultural uses.
Sherman said the land was farmed through Melville's time in Pittsfield (1850-63) and beyond. There are other agricultural operations today along Holmes Road, which she said could be a factor in the quick approval from the city board, with no one speaking against the plan.
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