‘Eei-Eei-No!’: Plymouth County Commissioners, Sheriff’s Department Locked in Dispute Over County Farm

Plymouth County Sheriff Joe McDonald

PLYMOUTH – Popular public attractions at a local farm are at stake as a result of a property dispute between the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department and county commissioners.

The dispute is over public access to the farm located on Obery Street in Plymouth, a 90-acre parcel owned by the county.

The Sheriff’s Department, who has been operating the farm for over 100 years, was recently served a cease and desist notice by attorneys representing the Plymouth County Commissioners.

“The Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department has operated a prison farm on that location for a little over one hundred years. Ten years ago we became a state agency and when I was first elected sheriff 15 years ago, when I came in the farm was shuttered, the animals were sold off and the county was preparing to develop the land and sell it off,” Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonald explained.  

It’s the second such notice in less than year. Sheriff McDonald says the cease and desist order stated that on June 30 the county plans to install “no trespassing” signs at the farm.

The farm has seen multiple uses over the past century. When the old county jail was located next door, the Sheriff’s Department utilized the farm as a prison rehabilitative program where revenue produced by fruit and vegetables grown on the farm would go towards inmates’ canteen fund.

Since Sheriff McDonald was elected in 2004, he’s transformed the property into a popular farm stand and free petting zoo.

“I was able to, remembering the farm from my childhood and driving by to see what a wonderful place it was, have a vision of bringing it back as an inmate rehabilitative program. I got a lot of help from a lot of people in the community, principally the friends of the farm, a lot of individuals, a lot of community groups and the legislative delegation came together,” said McDonald.

“We were able to not only get the farm back up and running, but make it even more than I could have imagined it could be. So, it is far more today than simply and inmate rehabilitative program. It’s a beautiful community resource, there’s a petting zoo, many people come to buy their Christmas trees, they come there to buy ornamental plants for their gardens. It’s just a wonderful gathering place that hosts everything from children’s birthday parties to wedding photos with the beautiful flowers.”

The cease and desist notice would shut down the petting zoo and farm stand. County commissioners primarily cite concerns with insurance liability due to the lack of a lease on the property.

“The farm has been there for 100-plus years. We have been a Commonwealth of Massachusetts agency for ten years, and all of a sudden it now becomes an issue that they have to have a lease signed by us for tens of thousands of dollars every year and for hundreds of thousands of dollars for back rent that they’re alleging we owe them. I disagree with all of that,” the Sheriff stated.

“The Plymouth County Farm has existed and operated for the last 100-plus years, and if I have anything to say about it, it’ll be there for the next 100-years.”

By TIM DUNN, CapeCod.com News Center

About Tim Dunn

Tim Dunn is a native of south coast Massachusetts, growing up in the small town of Mattapoisett and now resides in New Bedford. He’s worked in the CapeCod.com News Center covering everything you need to know about on the Cape.

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