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Improvements to Harvard Farm Include Public Art Sculpture

February 15, 2019
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Three triangular structures.

Travelers on Route 32 in Petersham will soon see improvements to the Harvard Farm, formerly the Petersham Country Club property, now a working cow pasture, ecological research site, and outdoor classroom owned by the Harvard Forest.

Some changes are small and aesthetic: the Harvard Forest Woods Crew has been clearing brush and pruning dead tree branches to beautify the view from the road. This spring, the large equipment shed will be painted and upgraded to match the style and color of the historic saltbox-style clubhouse building.

Interpretive signage will be installed to explain the Forest's ongoing ecological research at the farm, which includes studies of how the timing and intensity of grazing and haying affects plants, soils, carbon, water, and wildlife, especially birds, small mammals and butterflies. The cows on the site are owned by local farmers, who use the land free of charge while the Forest maintains the fences. Each year, hundreds of students learn from research at the Farm.

The most prominent change to the roadside view will be a new art exhibit – a 5-ton sculpture to be installed in mid-December following a 6-week stint at Harvard University's Science Center Plaza in Cambridge, Mass. The exhibit, called "Warming Warning," depicts global temperature data and shows several potential futures of carbon dioxide emissions – aiming to spark conversations about local actions that can be taken now to combat climate change. It was built from wood harvested and milled by the Harvard Forest Woods Crew, and framed by a local timber framer.

The sculpture will be installed in an opening on the road that is left by the removal of a 1920's era, Cape-style house that fell into significant disrepair in the years before the Country Club sold the property to the Forest. The demolition of the house building will begin in mid-December, and should be complete within a few days.

"The Forest has a commitment to restoring and maintaining historic buildings," says Clarisse Hart, Outreach and Education Director for the Forest, noting the Forest's renovation of the Bryant Farmhouse on Pierce Road in 2008. "But the Cape's basement has been flooded for years and its foundation is crumbling. We need to focus on maintaining the farm property as a conserved working landscape for research and education, and a resource for the community."

The Farm landscape is readily viewed from the adjoining Town footpaths on Poor Farm Road near the Curling Club and Pierce Road next to the Bryant House. Parking is available at both sites. Hart adds, "We'd also like the community to know that through the winter the sledding hill downslope of the Curling Club parking area will remain open to the public." During the rest of the year, all of the fenced areas hold cows.