Tidmarsh Farms is a 600-acre property located in the village of Manomet in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It is significant in that this property covers a full 17% of the Southeastern Coastal Watershed in Massachusetts and 50% of the outflowing stream, measured from the headwaters. In the mid to late 20th century the associated wetlands were ideal for growing cranberries. However, early in the 21st century, technology changed: growers started to build “upland” bogs (easy to maintain rectangular fields that avoided wetland regulations) and researchers created vines capable of producing 4 to 5 times the crop as the traditional cranberry varieties. In 2008 the family decided to retire the land from agriculture and committed to restore the agricultural land to natural wetlands, thus creating the opportunity for Living Observatory.
A century ago, the Farms included 2 rather large cranberry farms and at least one smaller farm. In the 1980’s the current owners acquired this land and reenergized the cranberry farming practice on the two larger pieces that we now refer to as “Tidmarsh East” and “Tidmarsh West”. The farms responded and produced 1% of Ocean Spray’s crop in 1989. However, technology changed: growers started to build “upland” bogs (easy to maintain rectangular fields that avoided wetland regulations) and researchers created vines capable of producing 4 to 5 times the crop as the traditional cranberry varieties. In 2008 the family decided to retire the land from agriculture and committed to restore the cultivated land to natural wetlands, creating two large publically accessible conservation areas in the heart of Manomet.
The Tidmarsh East property encompasses approximately 480 acres running between Bartlett Road (to the East) and Beaver Dam Road (to the West) and from the headwaters formerly known as Beaver Dam Pond to the South and route 3A to the North. Historically, a river flowed through a forested wetlands. Around 1830, a dam was built at Rt 3A for the purpose of generating energy for a plant that produced colored string used to make fishing nets. This dam a created a large kidney bean pond in the middle of this property. In the 1890’s, a large parcel of the current property was acquired with the intent of building cranberry bogs. A reservoir was created to the South of the earlier pond; the concrete dam used to impound the headwaters was completed in 1923. The last harvest on this bog complex occurred in 2010, when the family placed a USDA NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program. conservation and wetland restoration restriction on 192 acres of this property and drew down the reservoir. In 20111, Tidmarsh Farms in partnership with the Ma. Department of Fish & Game, Division of Ecological Restoration, USDA NRCS, and USFWS, Tidmarsh Farms initiated a process to design, fund and construct what is today the largest comprehensive freshwater wetland and river restoration ever undertaken in Massachusetts. In parallel, the owners with the support of all the partners formed Living Observatory in order invite scientists, artists and engineers to explore, document and reveal how the property transitions over time. We anticipate that the construction phase of this project will be complete in 2017.
The Tidmarsh West property encompasses 120 acres of low lying cranberry bogs to the west of Beaver Dam Road as well as a wooded parcel, known as the “Church”lot, that rises up into the Pine Hills. The cranberry bogs were formerly owned by the Richmond family whose heirs still live close by. The cranberry bogs were retired from active production in October 2015. A USDA NRCS conservation and wetland restoration easement has been placed on 99+ acres, and a preliminary design for the restoration is in progress with our partners Ma. D F & G Division of Ecological Restoration, USDA NRCS, and the Town of Plymouth.