Spotlight on the Viability Initiative: Wingate Farm

Jennifer Wilhelm

The New Hampshire Food Alliance is excited to announce the Farm, Fish, and Food Enterprise Viability Initiative.  This initiative entails several areas of opportunity where the network can create conditions that will lead to more profitable and sustainable farm, fish, and food enterprises including Education, Land and Sea Resources, Market Development, and Food Accessibility. In order to illustrate the great work that is already being done in these areas, we have compiled a series of blog posts to share success stories. This Spotlight on the Viability Initiative focuses on the opportunity area of Land and Sea Resources.

Wingate Farm

Wingate Farm—a 5th generation family farm in Hinsdale, New Hampshire—is now permanently protected through an innovative conservation program. Lead by Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, the collaborative effort to protect 60 acres of farmland involved diverse support, from the federal USDA Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to local conservation commissions. In addition to a traditional agricultural easement, an Option to Purchase at Agricultural Value (OPAV) was also placed on the land: the first OPAV in New Hampshire. Including an OPAV along with the agricultural conservation easement ensures that the land remains accessible and affordable to farmers into the future. According to Jamie Pottern, Farm Conservation Program Manager at Mount Grace, “by employing new tools like the OPAV, we can help our current and future farmers get on the land—this in turn helps towns protect their community heritage, increase food access, and strengthen rural economies.”

Placing a conservation easement on the property enabled the family to meet their financial and conservation goals and keep the land in the family, transferring it from the senior generation to grandchildren Olivia and James Pettengill. Now in her second year of operation, Olivia Pettengill and her business partner Susan Parke-Sutherland sell organic eggs, produce, and flowers year-round.

"The conservation of Wingate Farm used farm protection models that are novel to New Hampshire,” explained Ian McSweeney, Director of the Russell Foundation.  “The family’s goals and Mount Grace's deep commitment to conserve the farm and support the community has created a model project that has conserved the land, addressed active farming and farmland affordability and supported the farm business development of the property.  Wingate Farm now stands as a model of innovation in New Hampshire’s farmland conservation."

“The Winchester Conservation Commission is excited about the possibility of protecting other farms in town. Farming is a valued, essential tradition. Our Master Plan states ‘Winchester wants to remain a rural community connected to its agricultural heritage, supportive of sustainable farming and wood lot management.’ An option to purchase at agricultural value is a new tool for modern farmers.”