Russell Foundation closing

  • Ian McSweeney, left, Gordon Russell and Barbara Russell, who make up the Russell Foundation, will be shutting down the foundation this June. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, December 04, 2017 4:35PM

The Russell Farm and Forest Conservation Foundation, which has been a key contributor in several conservation projects around the region, will be shutting its doors in the coming year.

“The foundation was always intended to be a ‘spend down’ foundation,” said Director Ian McSweeney in an interview last week. “The intent was that it would contribute to a number of projects, and spend down a set pool, meaning we always knew that it would have a life of a limited number of years.”

While the Russell Foundation was established in New Boston in 2003, by Barbara and Gordon Russell, focused on assisting landowners and farms in securing protection of farm soils and forests.  

During its 14 years of operation, the Russell Foundation had been involved in 60 farm projects, protected over 12,000 acres, been instrumental in the raising of over $16 million in over 40 towns in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, including Mason, Wilton and Peterborough.

“I see great importance with people reconnecting with the land, community, and their food, and through this work I’ve been able to facilitate some of that,” said McSweeney. “I hope to have these reconnections continue to build, as a way to address the fractured society we live in.”

The Russell Foundation has offered small grants to specific conservation projects, but mainly assists in helping to secure funds from government, state, town and private sources. 

Among the projects they’ve helped facilitate  locally are the conservation of the Four Winds Farm in Peterborough, the conservation of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in Wilton, and the purchase and conservation of the former Frye Farm land by High Mowing School in Wilton, and conserving a granite quarry gifted to the Mason Conservation Commission.

“It’s sad to see a foundation that’s been an asset go away, but the work that the foundation has been involved in has permanent, lasting impact to it,” said McSweeney. “The impact of the life of those impacts live on and hopefully continue to for many years.”

“The Russell Foundation is a tremendous loss for the region, as is Ian McSweeney, their only employee,” said Barbara Devore of Mason. Devore is a member of the Mason Conservation Commission, who contacted the Russell Foundation when the opportunity came for them to accept a gift of about 100 acres of the old MacDonald quarry donated by the Schwenks. The easement on that property, as well as another 100 acres surrounding it, is now held by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, a connection the Russell Foundation helped to forge.

“Ian McSweeney is a genius at that,” said Devore, of making those connections, finding funding, and facilitating conservation. “His knowledge of land use and conservation is from a much broader perspective and more in depth than many Conservation Commission members are able to have. We’re eternally indebted to the Russell Foundation for that assistance.”

The Russell Foundation is completing two more projects that are in process in the region, but will be officially shutting down on June 1, 2018.


Ashley Saari can be reached at  924-7172 ext. 244 o r asaari@ledgertranscript.com.