Nature-Minded Donors Turn $100,000 into $200,000 for Powder Major’s Farm Project

High School Club Sponsoring Dec. 9 Dinner to Support New Conservation Area

November 10, 2016

An autumn walk in the woods at the Powder Major's Farm and Forest. Photo by Kate Wilcox.

Donors giving anywhere from $10 to $10,000 have helped the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (Forest Society) to claim a matching $100,000 challenge grant in support of the $2.25 million Powder Major’s Farm and Forest Conservation Project.

             The Thomas W. Haas Fund of the N.H. Charitable Foundation issued the challenge grant in August, promising to match the next $100,000 raised in a regional effort to create a new conservation and recreation area on land being sold in the towns of Madbury, Durham and Lee.

            “There are 229 acres of tremendous regional, ecological importance at stake in the Powder Major’s Farm project, and reaching this goal underlines the broad community support this project has,” said Jane Difley, the Forest Society’s president/forester. “It inspires us to keep working hard to protect this land from future development.”

             The Forest Society is working to raise $2.25 million by the end of the year to complete the project’s three components. The first is to buy a 195-acre property, located behind Tibbetts Field on Route 155 in Madbury and extending into Durham and Lee, from the current landowners. The land contains an extensive trail system and frontage on the Oyster River, a drinking water source for the town of Durham, including the University of New Hampshire campus. It’s known as the Powder Major’s Farm because in the Revolutionary War era it was owned by the “Powder Major” John Demeritt, known locally for hiding stolen British gunpowder on the farm. If successful in its fundraising campaign, the Forest Society will manage this land as a forest reservation that will protect the water quality of the Oyster River and Great Bay, provide public recreation opportunities and protect wildlife habitat.

            The second component of the project is to protect an abutting, 34-acre agricultural property by buying a conservation easement on it from the landowners, and the third component is to accept and manage a donated conservation easement on an abutting 60-acre parcel owned by the town of Madbury.  

            The Forest Society has raised nearly $1.5 million in grants and donations so far, and is reaching out to community members and applying for additional grants to raise the remaining $750,000 needed to complete the project by the end of the year.

            “We’ve applied for about $350,000 in additional grants, and we’re reaching out to community members to help us raise the remaining $400,000 needed to keep this incredible property from being sold on the open market and very likely into development,” said Martha Twombly, capital campaign specialist for the Forest Society.

            The Forest Society has been working with the three towns and community groups to hold guided hikes on the property, field trips for local students and fundraising events. The next event is a fundraising Italian dinner being planned for Dec. 9 at the Oyster River High School in Durham, sponsored by students in the Oyster River High School’s Sustainability Club.

            “Students in the Sustainability Club have learned about this project’s importance for preserving their community’s natural resources and are really committed to helping the Powder Major’s Farm and Forest to become a reality,” Twombly said. “They’re still working out the dinner details, but we hope community members will save the date and come out to help.”

             To learn more about the project, visit

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