Honey Pot Hill Orchards Case Study

We’ve been here 93 years. Why is this suddenly a problem?

Honey Pot Hill Orchards, Stow, Massachusetts

by Mia McDonald, Technical Assistance Provider

Honey Pot Hill Orchards is a family run business located in Stow, Massachusetts, about 30 miles west of Boston. Stow is a small, quiet town of approximately 6,600 residents. When Clifford Martin purchased the 180-acre farm in 1926, he sold apples, pears and peaches both wholesale and retail. His son, Richard, was one of the first in the country to offer pick-your-own apples; and that experience continues with Richard’s son and granddaughter. Andrew and Chelcie Martin are currently the third and fourth generation and run a fully retail operation with pick-your-own apples, peaches and blueberries, as well as a retail and bake shop, a maze and other family-friendly fun and entertainment. These resourceful business owners now operate their thriving family legacy which is currently nominated as one of USA Today’s Best Apple Orchards of 2017.

For the entire history of the business, the farm has utilized one drilled well with no treatment for the labor residence, public bathrooms and operation of the cider press and snack bar. In late 2015, the farm contacted the town health department to inspect a new donut machine in the snack shop. The inspector had recently retired and the town was now utilizing an association of boards who were not familiar with the farm. During the on-site inspection, the farmers were informed that they should be a public water system and that they had already been reported to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP).

“We’ve been here 93 years. Why is this suddenly a problem?” asked Andrew Martin.

MA DEP had recently discovered many farms and small businesses operating under similar circumstances and all were subject to the same regulations: all were considered small public water systems and were required to take the steps necessary to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. MA DEP recognized Honey Pot’s well as a transient non-community public drinking water system because it serves more than 25 people more than 60 days per year. Very understandably, the owners were confused at the new designation as they had operated the business without the additional requirements and regulations of being a public water system for generations. They had also heard horror stories from fellow farms who had become public water systems, undergone testing and were now burdened with tens of thousands of dollars in contractor, testing and equipment fees.

As involved and successful farmers in New England, the Martins were already dutifully complying with local, state and federal regulations governing their crops, business and employment practices. They contacted their local Farm Bureau for assistance in resolving this issue without the need to become a public water system. The Martins were hopeful that by reducing connections or usage, they could avoid the designation of a public water system and the additional requirements, fees and costs. They were willing to stop public use of the bathrooms, post signs that stated the water was not potable and only use the water after it had been thoroughly heated. But MA DEP was not open to the proposed changes because of the exposure of the public to the water system.

At this point the Martins contacted their State Representative, Kate Hogan, for assistance in communicating with MA DEP. They were then referred to Massachusetts State Senator Jamie Eldridge. The legislative offices were not able to help as the MA DEP falls under the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The Martins met with MA DEP in Boston, then in the Central Regional Office in Worcester on multiple occasions. These attempts at discussion and compromise proved unsuccessful. During this time, the deadlines for compliance passed and the farm received an administrative consent order with possible fines. The situation had reached a stalemate.

An RCAP Solutions Technical Assistance Provider for Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island was working with Tougas Family Farm, a fruit farm in nearby Northborough, Massachusetts, on brainstorming new ideas for water supply during their busy apple-picking season. At a Massachusetts Fruit Growers Association meeting, the Martins were discussing their situation with other farmers. The Tougas family suggested meeting with RCAP to see if they could help. The Martins were reluctant as they feared RCAP worked for MA DEP and had little belief that the situation could be resolved, but they agreed to meet and discuss the situation, regardless.

As with many of the rural locations in which RCAP technical assistance providers (TAPs) get the opportunity to work, it was a beautiful site to visit. Even in early March, the gracefully gnarled apples trees rose and fell with the hills that covered the farm. Father and daughter, Andrew and Chelcie Martin, met with RCAP on a chilly spring morning to talk about what had been happening to this farm in the cozy apartment in which the seasonal laborers were soon to reside again. The Martins were trying to finish pruning the apple trees and were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their seasonal help to assist. They were tired and frustrated. They explained the arduous process of complying with the many labor and health laws under which a family-owned farm is subject. Chelcie Martin recounted the year that the health inspection of the labor housing had found that the silverware needed polishing. The laborers were due any day and she spent hours late into the night shining each piece of silverware in order to not delay their much-awaited arrival. They were responsible and caring business owners; but they had enough on their long lists and did not wish to take on the responsibility of a public water system.

After a thorough review of the thick file the Martins were keeping of their correspondence with MA DEP, RCAP had good news and bad news. The Martins’s farm, Honey Pot Hill Orchard, Inc., had already been assigned a public water system identification number and the lengthy application process was most likely not necessary. The Martins were surprised: “We are already a public water system?” Chelcie Martin asked.

The next step was to review the administrative consent order that had been issued to the water system and make a list of the requirements. Although this designation was unwanted, it did save the already very busy business owners from the application process and allowed them to continue down the list of requirements in the consent order. RCAP Solutions provided an emergency response plan and cross connection survey as required by the order. RCAP also drafted personnel plans, a sampling plan and other forms required by the order and assisted in the submission of all documents to MA DEP. All of this was completed at no cost to the system under grant funding from the Environmental Protection Agency. The corrective action plan was drafted at this first meeting.

Chelcie Martin volunteered to become the certified operator for the system. RCAP assisted in the completion of an emergency certification application for licensure to cover her until she met the requirements to apply for full licensure. She attended the RCAP/AWWA full day training on the Safe Drinking Water Act to gain the knowledge needed to pass the operator exam. Chelcie Martin also took the time from her own busy schedule to study materials provided by RCAP and, due to her diligence, passed the exam on the first try.

The final step was to establish communication with primacy to make sure everyone was on the same page. RCAP attended meetings between the system and primacy just to provide support for any additional requirements. MA DEP was pleased to see the progress on the consent order action items. MA DEP’s comments were received and incorporated into the items to be submitted.

MA DEP had seemed pleased with the progress and all action items had been completed so RCAP Solutions closed the project, but a few months later, it was time for the Martins to submit their first annual report for the water system. The state’s electronic filing system would not recognize Chelcie Martin’s operator designation. After a little probing, it was discovered that her application had never been processed past the emergency designation. It is unclear how this detail had been missed, but whatever the cause, the reports were rejected. The Martins reached out to RCAP again for assistance so with permission from MA DEP, one of RCAP’s certified operators worked with Ms. Martin to review the reports and submitted them under his license. After the reports were successfully submitted, Chelcie Martin was able to apply for and receive full operator status for very small systems.

Utilizing their experience with water systems and their existing relationship with MA DEP, RCAP Solutions was able to work with the business owners to bring their water system into full compliance. Through the entire process both the business owners and the primacy agency were looking for more information, but messages were not getting through and communication was failing. RCAP was able to act as a liaison between the water system and primacy to achieve the goals of both sides: continued provision of clean, safe water. The order was fully resolved and the Martins were ready for their busy season to begin in early August.

“It was a very stressful time,” remarked Chelcie Martin. Even after achieving full compliance, she remains vigilant about the new requirements and responsibilities of being a public water system which include maintaining her licensure, water testing and reporting. They are fortunate that their well produces high quality water that meets all standards. The Martins were appreciative of the knowledge and time that RCAP Solutions was able to provide to help them understand the regulations. They are also thankful that the services provided by RCAP Solutions lightened the financial burden they had originally expected with becoming a public water system.

 

 

RCAP Closed for All Staff Meeting

RCAP Solutions will be closed Tuesday, September 19th through Thursday, September 21st for offsite company meetings and training.  Our offices will reopen on Friday, September 22nd.

 

For our Housing Clients:

There will be no RAFT walk-in hours on September 18th -22nd. Our Housing Consumer Education Center will resume on Monday September 25th. Existing RAFT applicants can call and leave a message at 508-713-3250. HomeBASE clients should call their assigned case manager and EA Safe Step clients should use the emergency pager number.

New RAFT Intake Hours & Locations

RCAP Solutions has reinstated its intake and orientation for RAFT (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition) applicants.

Our new hours are:

  • Tuesdays:  9:00 am – 11:00 am
  • Thursdays:  4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Office hours are located at our Worcester office, 12 East Worcester Street, 2nd Floor, Worcester.

Starting Monday, August 14th, we will be expanding our intake hours to include additional locations throughout Central Mass.

The expanded hours and locations are provided by our housing counselors in order to better serve the growing needs of our clients.

The RAFT Program is a homelessness prevention program funded by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). RAFT provides short-term financial assistance to low-income families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. For more information, visit http://www.mass.gov/hed/housing/stabilization/residential-assistance-for-families-in-transition.html

Housing Consumer Education Center Informational Session

Please note: This event is geared towards practitioners and other housing agencies. Not for individuals seeking housing assistance.

Meet the Housing Consumer Education Center Staff!

Learn about:

  • First Time Homebuyer Program
  • Tenancy Program
  • Financial Wellness and Coaching
  • Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)

 

Friday, June 30, 2017. From 1 – 3PM

12 East Worcester Street, 2nd Floor, Worcester

Light refreshments will be served

Advance registration requested, please R.S.V.P. to:

Belmaris Roman, HCEC Housing Counselor

Phone: (978) 630-6788

broman@rcapsolutions.org

RCAP Releases Statement on Administration’s Budget Cuts

RCAP LogoWASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier this week, the Trump Administration released its full budget proposal to Congress. The proposal includes deep cuts to programs that will fundamentally hinder the ability for rural communities to thrive. In response to Administration’s budget, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) Inc.’s Executive Director Nathan Ohle released the following statement:

“This budget will severely hurt rural communities that have already been left behind. Now more than ever we need to be helping rural communities create opportunities to create good paying jobs, provide safe and affordable drinking water and adequately treated wastewater, and to develop infrastructure that will lead to economic growth.”

“There is a universal need for the federal government to support capacity building, technical assistance, and infrastructure funding in every community across America. The majority of small and rural communities that RCAP serves continue to struggle with capacity, expertise and adequate funding resources. They rely not only upon on RCAP’s technical assistance and training, but also loan and grant funding provided by the EPA’s State Revolving Funds and USDA Rural Development programs.”

“Cuts for safe drinking water and wastewater programs, the elimination of programs like USDA’s Water/Wastewater Grant and Loan Program, HHS’s Rural Community Facilities Program, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), and HUD’s Home Investment Partnership (HOME) Program are unacceptable. These programs were designed to help communities, particularly small rural communities, to invest in infrastructure, public health and economic development in some of the nation’s hardest hit areas.”

“Rural communities are the lifeblood of this country, and we stand ready to work in partnership with the federal government to improve programs that create healthy, vibrant and economically sustainable regions. RCAP is committed to working with the White House and Congress to show how this budget as proposed would adversely affect rural communities, and welcome the opportunity to engage in productive conversations that will lead to opportunity for every community across the country.”

The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) is a national network of six regional RCAPs working to ensure that rural and small communities through the United States have access to safe drinking water and sanitary wastewater disposal. The Partnership provides a variety of programs to accomplish this goal, such as direct training and technical assistance. For more information, visit www.rcap.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

CONTACT Bianca Poll, Director of Communications, bpoll@rcap.org 202-470-2808

RCAP Solutions is the Northeast affiliate of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, providing services in all six New England states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

Free Landlord and Tenant Workshops


How To Be A Good Tenant

Your Legal Rights & Responsibilities

Learn from professional housing counselors:

  • Planning your search for a rental unit
  • How to begin your search
  • Know your rights as a tenant
  • Tenant’s responsibilities
  • Rental Subsides
  • Avoiding Eviction

 Monday, June 5, 2017   ~   10 – 11:30 AM

RCAP Solutions – 12 East Worcester Street, 2nd Floor Worcester



How To Be A Good Landlord

Your Legal Rights & Preparing a Unit for Tenancy

Presented by Attorney Scott Wrenn, PC

Topics will include:

  • Buying a Rental Property
  • Prepping your Unit for Rental
  • Screening Prospective Tenants
  • Advertising your units
  • Written Lease Agreements
  • Security Deposits
  • Statements of Condition
  • Landlords Duty to Repair
  • Quiet Enjoyment
  • Summary Process

Wednesday, June 14 , 2017   ~   6 – 8 PM

NewVue Communities – 470 Main Street, Fitchburg

Please park on the right at the Shack’s parking lot or at the Main Street Garage (free 2-hour parking)



Register today!

Belmaris Roman, HCEC Counselor and Housing Search Specialist

Due to limited space, pre-registration is required.

2016 Snapshot

RCAP Solutions is pleased to present our 2016 Snapshot: “A Stabilizing Force in an Unstable Time”

Click here to view in flip book virtual format

Click here to download a PDF file

What you see is not a traditional annual report, but a condensed look at the positive impact as to how your tax dollars are used to help and make a positive impact in our communities.

We are proud of the many accomplishments the RCAP Solutions team made in 2016 and the work that was done to create opportunities for self-sufficiency for individuals and families throughout central Massachusetts and in small, rural communities across the Northeast United States, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

As always, we appreciate your support of RCAP Solutions and welcome your feedback.

RAFT Services Suspended

Please be advised that RCAP Solutions, Inc. is temporarily suspending intake and orientation for RAFT (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition) applicants until further notice. We will most likely not resume taking applications prior to the start of the next fiscal year (July 1st) unless additional funds become available. At this juncture we have expended/committed all FY’17 funds available.

Please be advised that all applicants who have applied prior to the shut down and were not approved will need to begin the process again when we re-open in July.

 

For more information, please contact:

Tracey Weeden, Director of Counseling & Homeless Services

12 East Worcester Street, Worcester, MA 01604

Phone: 978-630-6741, Email: tweeden@rcapsolutions.org

 

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Drinking Water Week 2017

It’s Drinking Water Week!  

Did you know that RCAP Solutions works with rural communities to promote public, environmental and economic health?  Through our affiliation with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), a national network of regional nonprofit organizations, we provide comprehensive, on-site technical assistance and training to help small, rural communities address their drinking water, wastewater, and other community development needs. We provide services in all six New England states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Some statistics about the work our Technical Assistance Providers offered in 2016:

  • Number of communities  with improved public health outcomes due to RCAP Solutions projects: 151
  • Total Population served: 521,778
  • Low income population served: 135,239
  • Leveraged funding for capital projects: $4.75 million
  • Number of trainings conducted: 47
  • Number of participants trained: 783
  • Number of households positively impacted by  RCAP Solutions training and technical assistance: 71,540
  • Number of students and teachers impacted by environmental presentations and events: 700

If you have any questions about how our programs can support your communities, please contact Sarah Buck at 978.630.6658, sbuck@rcapsolutions.org.

Stay tuned for additional information this week about water and the work we do in small, rural communities.

For more information, please visit our Community Resources Pages here.

May Housing & Financial Wellness Workshops

HCEC Logo

Don’t Miss Our Upcoming Housing
& Financial Wellness Workshops!
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First Time Home Buyer Certification:
May 16, 17, & 18, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Must attend all three classes per HUD guidelines
Cost: $55 Per Household
Participants will receive the required certificate that is stipulated in most FTHB loan product and DPA programs. This workshop will guide the homebuyer through the home buying process with professionals in the each field. Introducing the home buying team; Lender, Realtor, Inspector, Home owner Insurance Rep, and Attorney.
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Upcoming Financial Wellness Workshops:
 
Credit 101
May 10, 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Participants will understand how to develop good credit, how to maintain credit and how to use credit wisely. 
Budgeting
May 24, 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Participants will develop own personal spending plan, learn how to track spending and understand why/how to save toward increasing personal net worth (extreme couponing).
Financial Planning
June 28, 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Participants will provide an in-depth look at savings and investing in the future, along with putting together a personal plan to meet their financial goals; Purchasing a home, Life Insurance, Retirement plan.
Registration/More Information:
Please contact Belmaris Roman
978.630.6788, broman@rcapsolutions.org
Space is limited, registration required.  
 
Location: 
RCAP Solutions
12 East Worcester St, 2nd Floor, Worcester, MA
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Online Homebuyer Workshop
The Road Home
Cost: $100 Per Household
This is an online, self-paced workshop. You must complete the course within 30 days of registration.

Click here to register

 
Proudly Sponsored by:

 

RCAP Solutions Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) offers answers to a wide range of questions about housing problems.  Tenants, landlords, prospective buyers and homeowners can access information designed to maximize housing stability, strengthen investments and minimize disputes.

RCAP Solutions is one of nine member agencies of the statewide Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts, acting as the Housing Consumer Education Center for the Worcester County Region.  These agencies offer housing assistance, services, and information to low and moderate income residents of Massachusetts.

 

RCAP Solutions is an organization that has adopted The National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling, a set of guidelines for quality homeownership and counseling services. Industry professionals who adopt these standards can be trusted to provide consistent, high quality advice.  For more information, please visit www.homeownershipstandards.org