MONSON — Silver Bell Farm has become a local destination for holiday events and special occasion parties, but due to regulations from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, owner Michael Moore has had to curtail the days he is open, leaving customers with fewer venue options and Moore with less income.

Silver Bell Farm was founded by Moore nine years ago. It was originally a traditional farm to grow fall gourds and Christmas trees, but Moore said it “morphed” into a venue for events to create revenue in the off-season.

After the first few years, as the business grew and more people began visiting the farm each year, the town suggested Moore ask MassDEP about certifying the farm’s well as a public water supply.

According to MassDEP, a water supply is considered public if it serves 25 or more people daily on average or has more than 15 connections and operated 60 or more nonconsecutive days per year. A private water supply, like the existing well at the farm, can be certified as a public water supply, but the DEP told Moore that the existing well does not meet the needed criteria.

“We have a perfectly good water supply. It gets tested regularly,” Moore said. However, he noted, MassDEP requires a well that serves as a public water supply to be half an acre in all directions from any road of crop to limit the risk of contamination. The DEP gave Silver Bell Farm five years to drill a new well.

Moore said that he decided to hold off for a couple of years until the business was more firmly established before making such an investment. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, bringing such construction projects to a near halt. This ate into the window the farm was given to dig a new well.

“This is not a surprise to me. I’m not angry with the DEP or anything,” Moore said.

Moore said the farm has enough space to drill a new conforming well. The problem is the cost. He expected the well to cost about $30,000. Instead, the latest quote he received was $150,000. He said, “The majority of the cost is engineering.” Moore applied for grants last year but was not awarded the funding. He is trying again this year.

In the meantime, Silver Bell Farm has had to restrict its days of operation to fall under the criteria for private water supplies. “I’ve adapted for the last year and a half to have more people in a shorter number of days,” Moore said. “I’m trying to make do with 60 days. I don’t need 360 days, but I need about 180 days.”

Throughout the year, Silver Bell Farm usually offers an Easter Bunny Adventure in March, Christmas in July, Fall Harvest Weekends in October and Halloween on the Farm. The Christmas season, which is the farm’s most profitable and active time of year, features five weeks of Silver Bell Nights, Santa Visits and Santa Storytimes. While most of these events will continue, they may be subject to change.

The largest impact on Silver Bell Farm is the loss of income from private events. In an average year, the farm hosts about 150 birthday parties, wedding or baby showers and field trips. The rental fees for these events generate much of the farm’s revenue.

In a recent post on the Silver Bell Farm Facebook page, Moore explained the limited schedule to the community and was met with an outpouring of support.

“I wasn’t trying to get people to feel sorry for me or anything like that,” Moore said. Instead, he said he wanted to explain to people why private events are not possible this year. “People get upset when we’re limited in days.”

For the time being, Moore said he hopes people will still visit the farm and be patient as he tries to find the funds to address the well so the farm can once again be fully open all year.

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