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WILTON

Preserving history

WILTON’S FRYE FARM: $1.6M sale to High Mowing pending

  • Fiona Graham of Wilton, a High Mowing student, gathers eggs from the chickens her school keeps as part of its horticulture and sustainable agriculture programs. The programs are expected to expand next year, after the school finalizes a purchase agreement with the neighboring Frye family to acquire 105 acres of farmland. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Fiona Graham of Wilton, a High Mowing student, gathers eggs from the chickens her school keeps as part of its horticulture and sustainable agriculture programs. The programs are expected to expand next year, after the school finalizes a purchase agreement with the neighboring Frye family to acquire 105 acres of farmland.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Brad Miller, the Horticulture Science teacher at High Mowing School in Wilton, surveys the upper 35 acres of farmland at the Frye Farm in Wilton. The land is part of a recent purchase agreement between the Frye family and High Mowing to buy and preserve 105 acres of farmland and woods to expand the High Mowing horticulture program.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Brad Miller, the Horticulture Science teacher at High Mowing School in Wilton, surveys the upper 35 acres of farmland at the Frye Farm in Wilton. The land is part of a recent purchase agreement between the Frye family and High Mowing to buy and preserve 105 acres of farmland and woods to expand the High Mowing horticulture program.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Fiona Graham of Wilton, a High Mowing student, gathers eggs from the chickens her school keeps as part of its horticulture and sustainable agriculture programs. The programs are expected to expand next year, after the school finalizes a purchase agreement with the neighboring Frye family to acquire 105 acres of farmland. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The Frye family has reached a purchase agreement with the High Mowing School to sell and permanently preserve 105 acres of farm and woodland.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Brad Miller, the Horticulture Science teacher at High Mowing School in Wilton, surveys the upper 35 acres of farmland at the Frye Farm in Wilton. The land is part of a recent purchase agreement between the Frye family and High Mowing to buy and preserve 105 acres of farmland and woods to expand the High Mowing horticulture program.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

WILTON — Across the street from High Mowing’s greenhouses and chicken enclosure is a rolling field, stretching for 35 acres and offering an unobstructed view of the local mountains. The land belongs to Gary and Gail Frye. Seven generations of the family have worked the land as farmers, and despite long-held interest from both High Mowing School and the Temple-Wilton Community Farm to purchase the land, it has stayed in the family. That is, until now.

High Mowing has reached a purchase agreement with the Frye family to acquire not only the 35 acres of field across from their greenhouses, but a total of 105 acres of field and woodland they plan to use to expand their forestry and horticulture programs.

Brad Miller, who teaches horticulture sciences at High Mowing has big visions for how the land could be used to teach sustainable agriculture . But those big dreams come with a big price tag, and High Mowing will have to pay a total of $1.6 million to make it happen. That price includes not only the purchase of the 105 acres of Frye Farm, but also the cost of conservation easements for the land, as well as conservation easements on 54 acres of land already owned by High Mowing which will also be preserved as part of the agreement. The conservation rights will be held by Yggdrasil Land Foundation, a charitable organization founded in 2000, with ties to California, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. .

In a phone interview Wednesday, Gary Frye said he is the sixth generation to work the land, and his son, Austin, is the seventh. The land has been in the Frye family since before the Revolutionary War, and it wasn’t an easy decision to sell. But at 65, he is reaching retirement age and as a farmer he doesn’t have a 401K plan. The sale of the land will allow him and his wife to retire, he said. The family will keep the old homestead and a portion of farmland to continue growing hay for at least another couple of years, he said.

While it was hard to let the land go, selling it to High Mowing and knowing the land would be preserved was a relief, he said.

“I’d rather see it go to the school and be conserved, than sell it another way,” he said. “I might have got more money selling it to someone else, but I’d be looking at houses and more people in the field. I’d like to see it the same way it’s always been, rather than have condos and houses go up.”

The discussion first started with the 35 acres of fields abutting the High Mowing campus. “It’s been a project that’s been a hope of many for a few decades now,” McSweeney said. “High Mowing has long been interested in this field. They’ve long had an interest in protecting this field from development.”

When the Fryes began to have an interest in selling that property, McSweeney was invited into the conversation. But the scope of the project grew, until both sides had agreed to the 105 acre parcel, which includes portions of four of Wilton’s seven well head protection areas, a local snowmobile trail and 800 feet of frontage along the Souhegan River.

High Mowing has been working in conjunction with the Russell Farm and Forest Conservation Foundation — a nonprofit based in New Boston that works to preserve land in southern New Hampshire — to access grant funding, in order to raise the money for the purchase, according to Ian McSweeney, the executive director at the Russell Foundation. And with the help of the Russell Foundation help, High Mowing has already secured nearly $800,000 in grants from U.S. Department of Agricultural/Natural Resources Conservation Services — just under half way to their goal. But they still have a long way to go, and will be applying for additional grants and doing private fundraising over the next year. The school hopes to have all of the funds in place to purchase the land by next June.

High Mowing has a long history with the Frye family. In fact, some of the land that serves as the campus was originally land owned by that family. In the 1940s, the Frye family sold land to Beulah Hepburn Emmet, who founded High Mowing School in 1942. Even the name “High Mowing” was inspired by a conversation between Emmet and the Frye farmers, who told her they had a south mowing scheduled. Since the school was perched on the top of Abbott Hill, Emmet decided to call the school “High Mowing.”

Miller said High Mowing is making big plans for what to do with the land. But the school can’t make any changes to the landscape until they officially own the land. Until then, they’ll be concentrating on creating models for future teaching opportunities.

The school already has roots in biodynamic farming techniques, working out of multiple greenhouses on campus , growing vegetables and raising poultry. With the acquisition of the Frye Farm land, the school will be able to expand the land worked to grow produce. The school has lacked the infrastructure to accommodate large numbers of animals, which could be accommodated with the additional fields, Miller said.

The school also hopes to negotiate agreements with local farmers and teaching institutions, including universities, to use the land and extend High Mowing’s learning opportunities.

“We look forward to partnering with universities and farm programs,” said Miller. “We’re using this as a model to see what future our students could have in agriculture. Even just as consumers, we want to show them the models of agriculture and the impact they have on the local land and water.”

The school has already been in talks with the Temple-Wilton Community Farm to develop other agricultural learning programs with the new land, Miller said.

And it’s not just the farmland the school has plans for. Along with fertile farmland, the parcel also comes with a lot of wooded area. Miller said the plan for the forest is to have the school actively manage it as part of its teaching curriculum, to show students the affects of forest management throughout the area. They also intend to cultivate public trails.

“There’s so many dreams,” said High Mowing Director of Community and Resource Development School Kathy Boss in an interview Tuesday. “And lots of wonderful plans.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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