Friends and supporters of local farming gathered earlier this month in Hinsdale, New Hampshire to celebrate the permanent protection of Wingate Farm.
Wingate Farm’s new owners are Olivia Pettengill and her brother James. In their second season growing, Olivia and her business partner, Susan Parke-Sutherland, raised 700 pastured laying hens, hundreds of broiler chickens, eight forest-raised pigs, and a variety of vegetables and flowers.
Until recently the 60-acre farm was jointly owned by sisters Carroll Pettengill and Alma Niemiller. In addition to transferring the land to the younger generation, the family conveyed an agricultural conservation easement to Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust. Language in the easement prevents the land from ever being split apart from the house and barns—protecting the whole farm.
An option to purchase at agricultural value (OPAV) has also been placed on the land. These options are increasingly used to guarantee that protected farms stay in agricultural production and in the hands of working farmers. The option allows Mount Grace to ensure that a sale of the farm would be to a farmer at agricultural value. This is the first time an OPAV has been used to protect farmland in New Hampshire. Without this tool, farmers will continue—as is happening across the country—to get outbid by non-farmers, taking irreplaceable land out of farm production.
“Finding secure access to land is a challenge for nearly all beginning farmers,” said Holly Rippon-Butler, land access program director for the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC). “Land trusts have the potential to ensure that land is permanently protected for working farmers while transitioning from one generation to the next. NYFC has been educating the land trust community through our trainings and advocating at the federal policy level for wider use of these tools, which we believe are critical if we’re going to keep farmland available to support a new generation of farmers.”
Wingate Farm has been protected with support from the USDA Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), The Russell Farm and Forest Conservation Foundation, the Tortuga Foundation, the Bromley Charitable Trust, the 1772 Foundation, and the Conservation Commissions in Hinsdale and Winchester, New Hampshire.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have access to this prime farmland and to have so many dedicated people help us protect our family farm,” said Olivia Pettengill. “We try to grow food by paying close attention to the most basic natural systems on our land. We are constantly learning and striving to build the health of our animals and our land.”
This is Mount Grace’s first conservation project in New Hampshire. The trust has protected more than thirty farms and has been at the forefront of new strategies to help support local farms.
“Simply protecting the land is not always enough to save our farms,” said 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.”