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Conservation easements to protect Peterborough’s Sunnyfield Farm

Two conservation easements announced this week will protect Peterborough’s Sunnyfield Farm, allowing the property, which is owned by the Crotched Mountain Foundation of Greenfield, to remain in use as farmland.

According to an announcement from the foundation and the Harris Center for Conservation Education, the easements cover 55 acres, including 12 acres of prime farmland.

“There’s a good deal of river frontage on the Contoocook,” said Harris Center Executive Director Jeremy Wilson on Monday. “The land can be managed for agriculture or forestry. But it can’t be developed for anything else.”

The land on Route 136 has more than 4,000 feet of frontage on the Contoocook River and Bogle Brook as well as 10 acres of forest in the primary floodplain. 

The Sunnyfield Farm easements become part of a contiguous 250-acre conserved cluster that includes conservation easements to the town of Peterborough and the N.H. Department of Agriculture. This cluster is less than 1,000 feet from a large 1,400-acre conservation area that extends to Greenfield State Park and includes a 536-acre conservation easement the Harris Center holds on Otter Brook Farm land, the largest conservation easement in Peterborough.

The easement is also part of the Temple to Crotched corridor, a region-wide area of protected lands that spans thousands of acres between Temple Mountain and Crotched Mountain. According to Meade Cadot, land program director at the Harris Center, such conservation clusters can provide better protection for wildlife diversity, viewsheds and water resources than isolated pockets of open space.

In the announcement about the easements, Ed Henault, chair of Peterborough’s Open Space Committee, said, “We’re delighted; the  Contoocook River corridor is a conservation focus area. The easements conserve significant river shore land as well as farmland associated with Sunnyfield Farm’s protected lands. It’s great news to end the year with.”

Sunnyfield Farm produces organic meats, dairy products and vegetables for sale to the community. Through its connection to the programs at the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center, it also supports the attainment of therapeutic, educational and vocational skills of people with disabilities. As part of its experiential learning and rehabilitation programs, students, patients and adult clients help to plant, harvest and sell vegetables that are used in Crotched Mountain’s programs, and help to care for the farm’s resident chickens, cows and lambs.

Donald L. Shumway, president and CEO of Crotched Mountain, said about the easement, “We are proud to be creating a legacy that honors and preserves community agriculture, open space, forestry and recreational activities that are accessible to all. The Sunnyfield Farm has been part of Peterborough for generations and we’re pleased that it will remain a treasured resource.”

Earlier this fall, the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center permanently protected 1,226 acres on its Greenfield campus for forestry, fishing, camping and hiking. The Greenfield easement includes a 2.8-mile trail system designed to accommodate wheelchairs for a remote backcountry experience.

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