NATURE by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent

A century ago, the landscape of the South Shore was predominantly agricultural. Farmland was the norm, with commercial areas scattered here and there among the fields and pastures. It’s astonishing how much can change in 100 years! These days, visiting an agricultural property can feel like a step back in time. These vast expanses of open space are so inviting, with their big skies and grassy green meadows. Fortunately, the movement to preserve agricultural lands on in our region has been strong. Quite a few former-farms welcome the public, inviting visitors to hike, or stroll, or just sit and enjoy the view.

This month’s chapter of our Explore South Shore Contest features some of the South Shore’s most treasured agricultural landscapes. We invite you to visit them, and then post a photo from your adventure to Instagram with the hashtag #ExploreSouthShore. Each month we randomly select a winner from the posts to receive a prize package. We’ll also be featuring these farms (and former farms) every day on Instagram.

Weir River Farm: This 75-acre Hingham property, owned by The Trustees, is actually a working farm! It hosts occasional Open Barnyards where you can see the livestock up close, but visitors are also welcome daily to stroll the trails surrounding the pastures and gardens. On Turkey Hill Lane.

Lehner Conservation Area and Jacobs Meadow: These adjoining Hingham properties on South Pleasant and Main streets comprise 106 acres of forest and open fields. The fields in particular offer a glimpse of what Hingham looked like a century ago.

Griffin Dairy Farm: These 64 acres on Route 58 (Plymouth Street) in Abington offer a quick stroll through an open agricultural landscape. The well-tended trails extend around an open meadow and across a narrow stream.

Stetson Meadows: 184 acres on the North River in Norwell, on Meadows Farm Way. This property is mostly forest, but a century ago, it was all fields. To retain the agricultural character, the Town of Norwell has preserved one plot in the center for farming (it is leased for seasonal use). It’s a long drive down Stetson Shrine Lane, but it’s worth it for the trails, the history, and the river views!

Donovan-Wildcat Conservation Area: Not far off the beaten path in Norwell, at the intersection of Circuit and Pleasant Streets … it’s hard not to be wowed by this property. Fifty acres of agricultural fields stand in striking contrast to the otherwise-residential area. Surrounded by an additional 100 acres of woods, with numerous trails, this is a great place to explore.

Crosbie Family Preserve: These 49 acres off of Clapp Road, in Scituate’s West End feature a single farm field surrounded by woods and walking trails. Like the Norwell properties above, the field is leased seasonally to local farmers. Half of the appeal of this town-owned parcel is the setting. Enjoy the charming rural character of Clapp Road as you arrive and depart.

Phillips Farm Preserve: This 40-acre Wildlands Trust property lies directly adjacent to Marshfield’s Union Street Woodland and Nelson Memorial Forest. Comprised mostly of open fields, it provides an inviting contrast to its predominantly wooded neighbors. Trails connect all three properties.

Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary: Located on the Green Harbor River and farmed since Colonial times (and probably earlier), this 578-acre parcel was acquired by Mass Audubon in 1984. There are trails around the perimeter and down the middle, but much of the property is preserved for wildlife habitat — mostly grassland. The views are spectacular.

Willow Brook Farm Preserve: Another farm property transformed mostly to forest, this 167-acre parcel on Barker Street features a wide-open field at its center, and numerous stone walls, but also wooded trails and views of a 2000-acre freshwater swamp. Enjoy its historic character, and be on the lookout for a diverse array of wildlife!

Berrybrook Fields: This gorgeous, historic, tree-lined field is a sight to behold! A small drumlin hill at its center, topped with some stately oaks, provides contrast. In the mood for green? This is your place. 40 acres on Winter Street in Duxbury.

Historic O’Neil Farm: On Autumn Avenue, around the corner from Berrybrook, is another, larger, historic property. In continual use since the 1700s, this 145-acre parcel offers trails through woods and at the edges of meadows, plus views of a small working dairy farm.

Bay Farm: Previously occupied by Native Americans, these 80 acres on Loring Street became Colonial farms as early as 1627. In the early years of the 20th century, this was the location of a large dairy enterprise, which also raised horses, hogs, chickens and roosters. What remains is a very large open field, with numerous trails through varied terrain, plus views of Kingston Bay. Located on the Duxbury-Kingston town line.

Patuxet Park: You’d never know it, from the trailhead on Baslers Lane, but continue through the woodlands and wetlands of this 23-acre Kingston property, and you’ll eventually emerge at a landscape of green rolling hills. It’s a short walk with many rewards.

Holmes Reservation: A large open field on a gently sloping hillside, overlooking Plymouth Harbor. Take a walk around the perimeter, or continue along the North Plymouth Rail Trail, immediately adjacent. These 26 acres, owned by The Trustees, are located at the intersection of Robbins Road and Court Street (Route 3A) in Plymouth.

Hornstra Dairy Farm: One of the last working dairy farms on the South Shore. A beautiful spot to enjoy a classic agricultural landscape and catch a glimpse of some cows. Group tours and field trips available. Farm store and seasonal dairy bar/ice cream window on site at 264 Prospect Street in Norwell.

Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit You will also find 25+ years of Kezia’s Nature columns there. For more information about the Explore South Shore 2021 Contest, visit