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Grafton County Conservation Tour

Grafton County Showcases Local Conservation Projects

November 10, 2008

 

A beautiful fall day provided the backdrop for the Grafton County Conservation District Fall Tour of Conservation Projects, a sampling of local landowners’ cooperative conservation efforts with the Grafton County Conservation District (GCCD), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Cooperative Extension, and other agencies. About 25 conservation enthusiasts joined the tour of three sites, each offering a different perspective on New Hampshire Farming.

The day started at the Brownson’s property in Wentworth, where owners Fred and Linda have protected 124 of their 140 acres of diverse land with a conservation easement through the Upper Valley Land Trust. UNH Extension Forester Nory Parr explained the Brownson’s forest management plan, which includes delayed mowing of a large low-bush blueberry patch, creating wildlife openings in the forest, improving forest trails, and growth of wood products. Fred and Linda also worked closely with NRCS Soil Conservationist Tom Ebert on planning and implementing conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).

Tom highlighted the importance of these programs to this area, which was once fifty percent open agricultural land, but has reverted to forestland in the last century creating a beautiful stand of oak. Conservation efforts on the property, such as delayed mowing, wildlife openings, mast tree release, tree and shrub plantings for wildlife, and forest trails and landings, highlighted the Brownson’s commitment to conservation.


                           

Tour participants overlook the Brownson’s low-bush blueberry patch, where conservation practices such as delayed mowing and burn barriers have been implemented.


 

Tom Ebert described a wildlife opening created with plants specific to deer and upland game birds.




 

Fred Brownson says consulting with NRCS “has been extremely helpful in determining the best way to get things done.”

About 15 miles away in Orford, the Bunten Farm is home to the world’s second largest herd of Milking Devon cows. To take full advantage of rich and flavorful milk from the Devons, owners Bruce and Christine Balch have brought their vast culinary skills back to Christine’s family farm in NH and opened their restaurant, The Bunten Farmhouse Kitchen. A variety of milk products are produced – several types of cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Tour participants were served a choice of deserts accompanied by homemade ice cream convincing all of the high quality products that come from Devon milk.

Along with a concerted effort to provide their community with wholesome food produced locally, Bruce and Christine have worked with NRCS District Conservationist Dean Bascom to develop a conservation plan and an EQIP contract to assist them with improving the rotational pasture system and for making needed barnyard changes. The contract includes a nutrient management plan and a comprehensive grazing plan. Three miles of fencing have been installed so far, as well as a winter watering system for the cows. Dean and the Balch’s are working to construct a new waste storage facility in the future. The Bunten Farm land is protected from development through a New Hampshire Land Conservation Investment Program easement.

 

          
 

NRCS District Conservationist Dean Bascom demonstrates why fencing is needed, but the young Devon won't bite.




 

Over 3 miles of fencing have been installed on the Bunten farm, giving them what owner Bruce Balch believes are the best fences around.
“The Bunten Farmhouse Kitchen menu is based on locally grown food, anything and everything we can get close by,” says owner Christine Balch, seen here dishing up her delicious Bumbleberry Crisp.


The tour ended at Lee and Betty Sue Robie’s farm in Piermont, where 6 generations of the Robie Family have carried on the tradition of dairy farming. Recently Lee and Betty Sue’s son Mark has pursued an interest in cheese-making and developed a line of farmstead cheeses. To create an outlet for his products the Robie Family has opened a small store on their property that offers not only cheese, but ice cream, raw milk, eggs, bread, donuts, beef and pork, as well as other products from local producers. The store is a prime example of the ways local producers have to adapted their production and marketing to fill niche markets and meet local demand. The Robie’s have implemented an honor system in their store to best serve their local customers.
 


                                     

The cheese cellar in the Robie Farm Store.

 

“Just shipping milk from 60 cows does not generate enough profit, we had to diversify and produce value-added products to keep going,” Betty Sue Robie says.


 

A pen with a view, now that's humane treatment!

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