NH towns get grants to preserve farmland, historic buildings
WINCHESTER, N.H. — A state program has awarded thousands of dollars in grants toward a local farm, the town of Winchester and projects in Chesterfield and Hinsdale with the purpose of conserving farmland and protecting history.
The New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program recently gave $125,000 to the Monadnock Conservancy to purchase the development rights at Piccadilly Farm, a 70-acre CSA on South Parrish Road.
"We are thankful and optimistic and looking forward to this being a place where local folks can connect to their food, sense of place and community as long as they can imagine," said Bruce Wooster, who owns and operates Piccadilly Farm with his wife, Jenny.
"This is a win/win for everybody," said Stacy Cibula, the deputy director of the Monadnock Conservancy. "Not only does the farmer get a financial benefit for doing this, we are also protecting an important resource. Working farmland is in short supply."
Cibula said the land at Piccadilly Farm has been farmed for generations, and the purchase of its development rights guarantees it will stay in agricultural production.
"Most farmers don't want to develop their land," Cibula said. "But often they have to because they have no other option but to subdivide to improve their finances."
The award from the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program is a little more than one-third the cost of placing a conservation easement on the property, she said.
"The total project cost is $337,000," she said. "We hope to get a federal grant as well and we are also doing some private fundraising."
Piccadilly Farm has more than 400 shareholders, with about two dozen in the Brattleboro area, and also delivers shares to the metro Boston area.
"We have had a tremendous amount of support and we are really grateful," Wooster said. "We appreciate everybody who is buying local produce from a local farmer."
The town of Winchester received the grant for $75,000 to protect the late Robert Leustek's work on the Center Church clock tower.
"The steeple is in rough shape," said Town Administrator Karey Miner. "We need to do some repairs and maintenance to protect the clock."
The award is a matching grant, which means the town has to come up with $75,000, she said. For the past few years, town residents have voted at Town Meeting to set a little aside each year.
"We have one more warrant article coming up this year to finish up the balance that we need and then we can send out a formal request for proposals," Miner said.
Before his death in a vehicle crash in August of 2017, Leustek, a selectman at the time, made it his mission to restore the church's clock tower, spending many hours of his free time rebuilding and restoring the mechanism.
"All his work will be protected," Miner said.
STONE HOUSE TAVERN
North of Winchester, on the corner of routes 63 and 9, the Historical Society of Chesterfield received $95,000 from the state program for its work to protect the Stone House Tavern.
"We are so happy," said Pam Walton, a member of the Stone House Committee.
Walton said the money will be used to rebuild the tavern's four chimneys and repair its slate roof. Like the Center Church award in Winchester, this is a matching grant, Walton said.
"We have some money we have already raised, but we are continuing our fundraising," she said.
Walton said the Stone House Committee envisions the building as a historical resource for the entire region, not just Chesterfield.
"We are always thinking of new educational programs and the way in which we can work with other local historical sites to establish cooperative programming," reads the Fall 2019 report presented to the Chesterfield Historical Society. "We hope to provide visitors with a variety of historical displays. By providing guided tours, we hope they will come to understand how some families lived in 1831, and how important the tavern was for the traveling public."
In addition to rebuilding the chimneys and repairing the roof, the Stone House Committee hopes to replace windows and doors and make the building and its bathrooms ADA accessible.
The Chesterfield Historical Society purchased the Stone House in April 2018 and has received support from a number of sponsors, including Ames Performance, More Than a Thrift Store, Pat Rawson Construction, Infinity Cleaning, Wilcox Tree, Green Mountain Bovine, Guyette Fire Protection, Howard's Leather, Over the River Day Spa and Toadstool Bookstore.
In Hinsdale, the Hinsdale Historical Society received $5,000, also a matching grant, to replace the shingled roof on the Col. Ebenezer Hinsdale property on Route 119.
"We are appreciative of LCHIP's investment in supporting the Society's stewardship of this historic property," said project manager Sharron Smith. "The award will enable the Society to continue the preservation of this 1759 building."
The Hinsdale Historical Society acquired this historic property in 2009. It's used for educational programs in conjunction with the Hinsdale Elementary School and the Town of Hinsdale Summer Camp program, where children come to the property to learn the history of the town and the Colonial era.
In total, the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program awarded $3.5 million dollars in matching grants to 33 projects across the state.
In Winchester, Cibula said the Woosters, in selling the development rights, wanted to guarantee the land will remain in production long after they retire.
"They are very devoted to the idea of keeping the land viable for future generations," she said.
For now, said Bruce Wooster, he and his wife will continue to farm as long as they can.
"We're farmers," he said. "We see tremendous benefit in having this farm in Winchester and having the farm long into the future. This move is about generations of farmers on this property. It's much bigger than our particular time here. In the near term, we are quite happy to keep cranking out the vegetables as best we can."
The New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program is an independent state authority that makes matching grants to communities and nonprofits to conserve and preserve New Hampshire's most important natural, cultural and historic resources. Since 2000, the program has awarded $37 million to 315 projects in 151 Granite State communities, conserving more than 268,000 acres and preserving 180 historic structures.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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