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