Grants help farmers implement systems to fight climate change

Jasen Woodworth, owner of Nubi River Farm in Peterborough, shows a manual system to vent one of the farm’s greenhouses. The farm has received a grant to install an automated and solar-powered system in one of the hoop houses of the farm.

Jasen Woodworth, owner of Nubi River Farm in Peterborough, shows a manual system to vent one of the farm’s greenhouses. The farm has received a grant to install an automated and solar-powered system in one of the hoop houses of the farm. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Greens growing in one of the hoop houses at Nubi River Farm.

Greens growing in one of the hoop houses at Nubi River Farm. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Elsbeth Pendleton-Wheeler and Jasen Woodworth, owners of Nubi River Farm in Peterborough, in one of the hoop houses of the farm.

Elsbeth Pendleton-Wheeler and Jasen Woodworth, owners of Nubi River Farm in Peterborough, in one of the hoop houses of the farm. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Jasen Woodworth of Nubi River Farm in Peterborough shows how the roof venting system on one of the hoop houses functions to control moisture.

Jasen Woodworth of Nubi River Farm in Peterborough shows how the roof venting system on one of the hoop houses functions to control moisture. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Elsbeth Pendleton-Wheeler and Jasen Woodworth, owners of Nubi River Farm in Peterborough, in one of the hoop houses of the farm.

Elsbeth Pendleton-Wheeler and Jasen Woodworth, owners of Nubi River Farm in Peterborough, in one of the hoop houses of the farm. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Elsbeth Pendleton-Wheeler and Jasen Woodworth, owners of Nubi River Farm in Peterborough, check on starter plants.

Elsbeth Pendleton-Wheeler and Jasen Woodworth, owners of Nubi River Farm in Peterborough, check on starter plants. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 05-09-2024 12:01 PM

Modified: 05-09-2024 12:04 PM


Farms across New Hampshire are fighting the impacts of climate change on the agricultural industry with grants issued by the state’s conservation districts, including farms in Peterborough, Jaffrey and New Ipswich.

The state’s 10 conservation districts, including the Cheshire County Conservation District, have awarded $363,000 in grants to 45 organizations and farms this year to address ways to become more resilient against changing climates.

“Extreme weather events, frequent and prolonged droughts and increased pest pressures are challenging New Hampshire farms,” the Cheshire County Conservation District stated in a press release. “This climate grant though the NH County Conservation Districts seeks to support farmers in meeting those challenges.”

This is the third year that the grants have been offered, and eight more farms received grants than in 2023. Farms with a variety of agricultural focuses, including vegetables, dairy farms, pasture-based livestock producers, flower farms and berry growers all benefited.

The mission of the grant is to “support and empower local farmers to build climate resilience throughout the Granite State,” according to the Cheshire County Conservation District. The funds can be used in a variety of ways, with farms submitting plans to invest in farm infrastructure and equipment.

Of the farms selected, 12 projects targeted energy improvements, and the remainder requested funds to build drought-resilient irrigation systems, implement management practices that build soil health and help sequester carbon, integrated pest management or riparian plantings.

In Peterborough, Nubi River Farm, owned by Elsbeth Pendleton-Wheeler and Jasen Woodworth, said their farm is benefiting in two ways from the grant – by allowing them to install an automatic, solar-powered venting system for greenhouses and to install a solar-powered water pump for some of their high tunnels, where currently they have to use a gas-powered pump to deliver water from a stream on the property.

Woodworth said the venting system is critical for certain plants, including tomatoes and cucumbers, which can be susceptible to mold.

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“Even an hour of extra exposure to morning dew can lead to powdery mildew, or downy mildew,” Woodworth said.

He said replacing their current gas-powered pump helps in multiple ways – including replacing that gas usage with solar power.

“We’re saving in gasoline, which is horrible for the climate, and replacing it with a renewable resource we can use,” Woodworth said. “We’re very fortunate that we got this additional funding.

Christine Pressman, owner of Foggy Hill Farm in Jaffrey, said she will be using the grant funds to purchase a climate-resilient greenhouse, built by Hometown Structures in Massachusetts.

“We’ve been here 11 years, and don’t have a heated greenhouse,” Pressman said. She said the farm has been using stopgap measures such as shop lights in the farm’s enclosed porch and heat mats in the farm’s high tunnel to start plants.

“It’s a challenge to have these plants spread out about the farm, and we’re aware that it’s not making use of climate-friendly technologies,” Pressman said. “It’s an inefficient system.”

Pressman said the new greenhouse, which is expected to be up and running by the end of the year, will allow the farm to start seedlings earlier and in a more climate-friendly way. She said the farm has also recently started to purchase credits from a community solar farm hosted on Sun Moon Farm in Rindge, which will mean that the energy they are using on the farm will come from renewable sources.

Pressman added that having the new greenhouse will allow the farm to have an enclosed space to do activities with Perfect Peace, which the farm works with to provide agricultural workshops for people with disabilities.

“We don’t have a lot of spaces where we can go in inclement weather, so having a place we can gather in the rain or during the winter, will help us move forward to create sustainable careers and skills for the people in our community. It checks many boxes for us,” Pressman said.

Pressman said grants such as the ones provided by the conservation districts are important for keeping farming a viable occupation in the state.

“I’m very grateful. They’re a fantastic organization that really helps farmers survive. I don’t know where this county would be without them,” Pressman said.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @ AshleySaariMLT.