Scenic Swanzey farmland now conserved

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KEENE, N.H. — Rows and rows of corn run down to the Ashuelot River. It's a sea of green, tucked behind a neighborhood and industrial park just off Route 10 in Swanzey, N.H. One might never know that such a peaceful and beautiful spot exists here; now it will be this way forever thanks to land conservation.

Windyhurst Farm in Westmoreland, N.H., owns these 66 acres of farmland. Owners Stuart and Robyne Adams and Roger and Ellie Adams have voluntarily agreed to put a conservation easement on the property effective this June.

The Adamses grow corn and hay on the Swanzey property to feed their dairy herd at the main farm. (The dairy barn at the main farm is across the road from another business the family owns: Stuart & John's Sugar House Restaurant.)

"As dairy farmers, we take our responsibility for using our farmland for the present and preserving it for the future very seriously. Like many here in New Hampshire, we are a multi-generational, family owned and operated dairy farm," Stuart Adams said.

Conserving farmland is important for the dairy industry, but also for protecting the rural character of the area that we all so love. The open fields abut more than half a mile of the river as it bends it way southwest to the Connecticut River. Protecting land along the river helps filter stormwater runoff, provides flood control and keeps space open for wildlife to live and reproduce. By putting the land into conservation, the Adamses also ensure that the rich soils will stay intact and continue to be a high-quality spot for growing food.

"This land could have become developed with another office park or housing, which is not a good thing along the river," said Stacy Gambrel of the Monadnock Conservancy. "By protecting this land, we support the economy in a different way by supporting local farms."

Conserving the land is also crucial to the family's future. "This is especially notable as our sons and daughters are old enough to take an active role in dairy farming," said Stuart. As the next generation of the family becomes involved, it's important to plan for farm succession (who will take over the business and how will they run it?). Keeping the farm a family business is more likely now that the land has been secured for agriculture use.

"Farmers need money to retire and selling a conservation easement gives them money up front to reinvest and be able to pass the farm to the kids at a price affordable for the next generation," Gambrel said.

Funding support for this easement project came from Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, USDA's Agricultural Land Easement program, 1772 Foundation, Russell Farm and Forest Conservation Foundation, and an anonymous donor.

The Monadnock Conservancy, founded in 1989, is the only land trust dedicated exclusively to the 35 towns in the Monadnock region of southwestern New Hampshire. Its mission is to work with communities and landowners to conserve the natural resources, wild and working lands, rural character and scenic beauty of the region. Based in Keene, N.H., the Conservancy is an accredited organization that has protected nearly 20,000 acres of forest, farmland, shoreline, wetlands, wildlife habitat and recreation trails in the region. For more information, visit MonadnockConservancy.org or call 603-357-0600.

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