Cultivating Resilience:  Shelburne Falls Food Security Plan - Executive Summary

In today’s global economy, food is traveling farther and farther from the place it is produced to where it is consumed. Creating locally and regionally independent food systems is one potential solution for increasing food security in communities around the U.S.

The Central Connecticut River Valley Institute (CCRVI), based in the Village of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, is beginning to address such global issues.  CCRVI exists to create educational programs and innovative social, cultural, and economic institutions to connect people with the natural world, with themselves, and each other.

CCRVI has outlined a Community Food Program with two related projects: the Perennial Food Project and the Shelburne Falls Food Security Plan. The Perennial Food Project will determine which species are appropriate for use in small-scale semi-urban village production and share horticultural knowledge and practices for growing perennial crops, as well as propagate perennial plants to share with others. The Perennial Food Project will be the basis of a separate study.

This document, the initial phase of the Shelburne Falls Food Security Plan, incorporating recommendations of the residents, offers strategies for localizing the food system by providing a viable vision for meeting food needs locally. This report presents pertinent baseline data on nutrition and crop-growing requirements; analyzes village development and social patterns; evaluates natural conditions that affect food-producing potential; offers case studies and existing models of localized food production; and creates conceptual designs for food production in Shelburne Falls.

Shelburne Falls is a vibrant rural village of 1,951 people (based on 2000 U.S. Census) in western Franklin County, Massachusetts. The village is located along the Deerfield River near a bend where the river flows over the 40-foot high Salmon Falls, with forested hillsides rising to the east and west. The village covers portions of the towns of Buckland and Shelburne on either side of the Deerfield River, and thus follows zoning bylaws and regulations of the two towns.  For the purposes of this report, the project area is defined by the Fire and Water District, which contains approximately 815 households, a small commercial district, and some light industry.> 

Western Massachusetts, including the Shelburne Falls area, has a long history of agricultural production, and the long-term trend has been a decrease in agriculture as an occupation. In the last eight years that trend has been reversing, and agriculture as an occupation is once again on the rise. There are now more than eighteen farms located within a ten-mile radius of the village. Of the village’s 1,951 residents, 86 percent commute an average of twenty-one minutes to work each day, 45 percent live in rental units, and 78 percent are over the age of eighteen.

To provide for the nutritional needs of the population of the entire village would require 4,314,428 calories per day. Based on research conducted by Christian J. Peters of Cornell University, Shelburne Falls would need between 858.44 and 4,136.12 acres to produce the food to meet the needs of its residents, depending on the composition of the diet. Another model, based on an urban homestead in Pasadena, California, determined that it would take 58.53 acres to provide for the same population on a low-fat vegetarian diet.

The physical setting and site conditions of Shelburne Falls are characterized by gentle to moderate slopes that are predominately east- or west-facing, and sandy, well-drained soils. The temperate climate is characterized by cold winters, warm summers, and an average total annual precipitation of 51.66 inches, spread evenly throughout the year. These conditions are well-suited for growing crops and producing food. Of the 1,255 acres within the Fire and Water District boundaries, 815.5 are either paved, occupied by buildings, or are open water. The 439.5 acres remaining is divided into small residential and commercial lots with very few parks or other open areas. The exception to this is the 16.56-acre elementary school grounds, where there are large open fields that could accommodate a large community garden in addition to sports and play. Food production in the open spaces of private yards, commercial businesses, and municipal areas could be increased to supply much more food locally than is currently being produced.

NOTE:  The Conway School of Landscape Design students who prepared the Report were Fiona Dunbar, Alex Hoffmeier, and Suzanne Rhodes.  Click here to see the full report published at