11 Generations of Family Farming Protected

November 30, 2006


Amanda Nickerson, Communications Specialist
Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
(603) 224-9945, ext. 301

11 Generations of Family Farming Protected

Emery Farm Protected in Durham

Durham, N.H., December 1, 2006 — Emery Farm is the kind of place that we tend to think will always be there. Thousands of commuters drive by the farmstand every day on Route 4 in Durham. The pick-your-own berry and fruit operation is a favorite destination for thousands more each year, providing locally grown produce in season. The adjoining land includes cultivated farm lands, an operable forest, hay field, pasture, a man-made pond, and wetlands. Thanks to an owner with an appreciation of history and sense of community, Emery Farm can continue in perpetuity.

It was the spirit of the land – which has been in the same family for 11 generations – that prompted owner David Hills to permanently protect Emery Farm this fall through two conservation easements.

"I came home after the closing and experienced a very different sense of the farm," Hills said. "It is hard to express in words, but I felt even closer to the land than normal. When I came back from work, I climbed up onto the roof of the lower cow barn with my neighbor Kyle and carefully peeked over the top as the bucks along the treeline came into the field, as the moon came up full through the pine trees I noticed the evening colors – the green of the pine coupled with the brown of the bark."

Granted to Joseph Smith in 1655 by the King of England, Emery Farm earned recognition as Strafford County Tree Farm of the Year in 1988, then named a New Hampshire Farm of Distinction in 2004.

A prominent symbol of the Durham community, Emery Farm sits across Route 4 from the 130-acre Wagon Hill Farm owned by the Town.

"It was a wonderful opportunity for Durham to participate with the Forest Society, the Town's Land Protection Working Group, and The Nature Conservancy," said Todd Selig, town administrator. "Emery Farm is identified over and over again in our Master Plan as a critical conservation priority."

"There's probably not a single person who has regularly traveled Route 4 who doesn't know where Emery Farm is," said Paul Doscher, vp for land protection for the Forest Society. "As a community institution, the farm not only contains prime agricultural soils, is a very visible place where Seacoast residents can still see how farming is an important part of their lives."

The farm was permanently protected through two conservation easements. The first, a bargain sale funded with $485,000 from the Federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) and $425,000 from the Town of Durham, covers 48 acres that include the farm fields and adjoining areas. A second easement totaling 11 acres on adjoining woodland is an outright donation by Hills.

A portion of the FRPP funding for the Emery Farm purchase was transferred to the project by The Nature Conservancy from other projects protected with different sources of funding. According to George Cleek of the NRCS, the FRPP is a unique program in that it allows NRCS to work in a cooperative conservation approach and create partnerships to acquire conservation easements to protect in perpetuity important farm lands threatened by conversion to others uses.

"I feel deeply moved by the land protection that was accomplished," said Hills. "I know that my ancestors before me say thank you as well as the natives before them, as well as the bucks eating in the fields. Thank you all."

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is the state's oldest and largest non-profit land conservation organization. In order to preserve the quality of life New Hampshire residents know today, the goal of the Forest Society, in partnership with other conservation organizations, private landowners, and government, is to conserve an additional one million acres of the state's most significant natural lands for trails, parks, farms and forests by 2026.