“I don’t want to see our field messed up with houses,” Ernie Vose said.
The 22-acre farm property on Wentworth Road in Walpole, N.H., is nestled between the woods and rolling fields. Most of the land is open. Abutting the property is the bubbling Houghton Brook. In the winter, when the land is not in use, a locally maintained snowmobile trail crosses through the fields providing access for public recreation.
Vose grew up milking cows on the family farm in Peterborough, but decided to switch to chickens since “they are cheaper and easier than cows.” The family transitioned to organic eggs in the ’90s. A few years ago, they decided to retire from farming and pursue their dream of conserving their land.
“We’ve maintained the farm and it is still operating. It probably won’t continue as a poultry farm forever, but these flat fields are excellent and they should be used as fields,” Ernie Vose said.
To the Voses, conserving the land was a promise to future generations that the rich soil would be saved. “So the farmland will stay that way,” Vose reflected.
“We’re also directly on top of an excellent aquifer here,” he said, “and that should be preserved.” The water from the aquifer and the brook has provided them with more than enough water to keep their operations up and running all these years.
Another Walpole, N.H., farmer currently leases the fields. The Sawyer family grows nearly 18 acres of hay to feed their cows at their nearby dairy farm. The Voses also have about an acre in pasture on which they graze a former 4-H cow that is living out her golden years on the property.
While the Voses are unsure of what will happen to the farm in the long-term future, they are sure of one thing: it will continue to be farmland. For now, the Sawyer family will continue haying the fields.
It is at the core of the Conservancy’s mission and work to enter into these kinds of voluntary land agreements with local farmers. Like them, the Conservancy is dedicated to preserving the rich farmland in the Monadnock region. Once land is developed, the soil can never be the same. Protecting farmland ensures that the soil quality will be maintained for farming vegetables and raising livestock to feed this generation’s children and their children.
The Conservancy would like to thank the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), the USDA Agriculture Land Easement Program, C&S Wholesale Grocers and private anonymous donors for making this conservation easement possible.
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 http://www.MonadnockConservancy.org or call 603-357-0600.