Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm on alert after thefts, other incidents

Signs put up at Historic New England’s Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury. The farm has been closed during the pandemic but open for passive recreation as long as visitors respect the location and the farm animals.Courtesy photo

NEWBURY — A recent stretch of “rude behavior and criminal behavior” at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm has led to staff beefing up security and placing “Do Not Enter” signs at specific locations. It has also led to an increase in police patrols at the farm.

One sign has been placed outside a chicken coop after someone was caught on video going inside and stealing eggs from nests.

Other instances of “rude behavior” include dog owners allowing their pets to run off leash and chase farm animals or owners not picking up dog waste, according to Bethany Groff Dorau, the North Shore regional site manager for Historic New England, which owns the 230-acre farm.

“There will always be people being disrespectful,” Groff Dorau said. “The vast majority of people who come here are such jewels.”

The family friendly farm on Littles Lane is free to the public. The site includes fields and a manor house built in 1690. The farm fosters sheep, goats, donkeys, chickens and a horse through its partnership with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Visitors can explore nature trails, pump water from a well outside the kitchen or sit in a horsehair-covered rocking chair and look through a stereo-viewer in the 19th century parlor when the buildings are open, according to the farm’s website.

In terms of criminal behavior, Groff Dorau pointed to the farm’s donation box. Someone pried open a lock and stole cash from the box.

“The sad part is we don’t know (how much was stolen) but we do know the lock was pried open,” Groff Dorau said.

The theft and other incidents at the farm were reported to Newbury police. Chief John Lucey Jr. said the farm has been placed on its patrol advisory.

“In light of the recent nefarious activity at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, Newbury police will be patrolling that area more frequently,” Lucey said. “We encourage citizens to report any suspicious activity immediately upon observing it.”

Groff Dorau said it goes against her nature to limit access to the farm or even put up signs saying, “You Can’t,” but when it comes to the safety of her animals, “I will act immediately.”

News of the bad behavior and a warning that “Do Not Enter” signs would be placed around the farm was recently posted on its Facebook page.

“We have security cameras, and so do the neighbors,” the post reads. “The police do regular rounds. And so, we find ourselves having to appear less welcoming than we would like, and we have to consider taking legal action against the more aggressive violators. So please, we know that the overwhelming majority of you are kind, gentle people. For those of you that are not, especially those who would intentionally endanger an animal (including your own), this sign is for you. And we mean it.”

Dave Rogers is a staff writer with The Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

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