Raspberry Farm Property Protected

HAMPTON FALLS, N.H. 12/30/2009: Raspberry Farm, located on Route 84 in Hampton Falls, has been permanently protected, The Trust for Public Land, the Town of Hampton Falls, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, and the Rockingham County Conservation District announced today. More than 40 acres of the farm’s prime agricultural land, forested habitat, and historic barn were to be razed for a subdivision last year.

A developer owned the property and held permits for a 12-unit subdivision. Under the plan, a historic barn built in the early 1800s was to be demolished to make way for the houses and a road. But in a deal negotiated by The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, the farm and its forested acres will instead be owned and managed by the Town of Hampton Falls as an addition to the adjacent 110-acre Hampton Falls Town Forest.

“We are extremely pleased to assist Hampton Falls with the protection of one of its most iconic places,” said Rodger Krussman, TPL’s New Hampshire State Director. “This property was almost devoured by sprawl but now it will remain a farm and forest, and a place for the community to enjoy hiking, cross country skiing, horseback riding, and other outdoor pursuits. TPL thanks the Town of Hampton Falls, the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the New Hampshire congressional delegation for making funding available; it proved critical to the success of the project.”

TPL assembled funding for the $1.61 million project from several sources, including $855,000 from the Town of Hampton Falls Conservation Commission, $630,000 from the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, administered by the U.S.D.A. Natural Resource Conservation Service, and $120,000 from a private fundraising campaign led by TPL and community volunteers. More than 55 gifts have been received from individuals in the community and a regional foundation. Two artists have also donated paintings of the farm to a silent auction, on display at the Hampton Falls town library, to help with the final fundraising.

The property has been actively farmed since the late 1700s and was known locally as the Raspberry Farm after a popular pick-your-own berries and retail farm stand which operated in the 1980s and early 1990s. The farm is located on Route 84, the American Independence Byway, one of New Hampshire’s most scenic roads. The property is also a conservation priority for the state in both its Coastal Plan and also the Wildlife Action Plan. Located at the headwaters to the Taylor River, the land is just upstream from the Hampton Seabrook Marsh, home to critical shorebird habitat and New Hampshire’s only clam beds.

When the property was subdivided it seemed certain that its agricultural heritage, scenic views, and exemplary wildlife habitat would be lost forever. The developer also proposed to demolish the historic barn that once housed the farm stand to make way for the subdivision. Concerned members of the community approached TPL seeking assistance in conserving the property. In the summer of 2008, TPL began negotiating with the landowner and after a year of negotiations-and a precipitous drop in the real estate market-TPL reached a deal with the landowner at a price approximately 40 percent less than the original asking price.

“This community really rallied around this project,” said Karen Ayers, chair of the Hampton Falls Conservation Commission. “People spoke at the public hearing about how much they value the rural character of the town and how we needed to protect our remaining open space. And we also got a tremendous outpouring of financial support from residents, which was key to making the project a success. I want to thank the campaign committee, the conservation commission, the selectmen, and all of the people who wrote checks for saving Raspberry Farm.”

An early milestone for protecting the property was a commitment from the Town of Hampton Falls of $855,000 from their conservation fund. With that commitment and the property under contract for a conservation acquisition, TPL applied for a grant from the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), a federal program for the protection of working farms and prime agricultural soils. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the FRPP, approved as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, and ranked Raspberry Farm as the top priority in New Hampshire.

“The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program is geared to preventing our prime agricultural lands and places of historic significance from being developed,” said Rick Ellsmore, Acting New Hampshire State Conservationist. “The Raspberry Farm faced an imminent threat and we are pleased that we could be part of this great partnership that was able to save it.”

“NRCS staff worked closely with the project partners to complete the lengthy due diligence process in record time and to develop easement language that assures that the long term stewardship of the property will follow best management practices for farming and forestry,” added Krussman.

Now that the property is in community ownership, the town will have the opportunity to build trails and a parking lot that will allow better public access. New trails may also connect to the adjacent 110-acre Janvrin Natural Area, commonly known as the “Town Forest.” The town plans to continuing farming and forestry on the property and will be working with a nearby farmer on a lease arrangement for the hay fields. In the future, the town could pursue a farm stand or a “pick-your-own” operation that would allow for a source of local fruits and vegetables for people in the community.

Under the purchase agreement, the land will also be subject to a conservation easement, which the Rockingham County Conservation District (RCCD) will hold and manage, ensuring that Raspberry Farm can never be developed.

“We are pleased to be part of keeping Raspberry Farm forever safe from development,” said Leonard Lord, District Manager of RCCD. “We look forward to a long-term partnership with the Town of Hampton Falls and the Natural Resource Conservation Service to make sure that the land is managed for agriculture, forestry, wildlife habitat conservation, and public enjoyment. I also thank The Trust for Public Land for negotiating this complex transaction and seeing it through to a successful conclusion.”

Hampton Falls residents also felt strongly about preserving the barn, which dates from the early 1800s. The town’s Heritage Commission got directly involved in the project and helped assure that the final transaction included a preservation strategy for the barn. The real estate transaction moves lot lines so that the barn can be been transferred to a private owner, who has stabilized the structure and will own and manage it subject to a separate preservation easement, held by the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance (NHPA).

“The Preservation Alliance was pleased to help preserve the barn,” said Jennifer Goodman, Executive Director of the NHPA. “Rural agricultural settings with intact original buildings are a vanishing resource in coastal New Hampshire. Saving places like Raspberry Farm is vital to sustaining New Hampshire’s heritage for future generations.”

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. In the Mahoosuc Region of New Hampshire and Maine, TPL has conserved more than 25,000 acres since 1992.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service provides leadership in a partnership effort to help America’s private land owners and managers conserve their soil, water, and other natural resources. NRCS employees provide technical assistance based on sound science and suited to a customer’s specific needs and provides financial assistance for many conservation activities. Participation in NRCS programs is voluntary. www.nh.nrcs.usda.gov.

The Town of Hampton Falls is a municipality located in New Hampshire’s rapidly developing seacoast region. The Town has been building a conservation fund by banking a portion of the land use change tax when land is removed from the current use program. The fund supports projects that preserve farmland, wildlife habitat, and public access for Town Residents. For more information visit www.hamptonfalls.org

The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance is the statewide, nonprofit historic preservation organization. The NHPA believes the best way to help preserve the character of New Hampshire is to work closely with communities, homeowners and a variety of partners to provide technical expertise in historic preservation, guidance in obtaining financial assistance and other resources, and leadership in implementation of supportive policies. Two core program areas — Preservation Services and Public Policy– work together to advance preservation in the Granite State. For more information visit www.nhpreservation.org

The Rockingham County Conservation District serves communities and landowners in Rockingham County to conserve and sustain the natural environment for present and future generations by working to make wise land use decisions. Formed in 1946 as a legal sub-division of the State of New Hampshire, the District is directed by a Board of Supervisors, a state appointed governing body made up of five residents of the county. For more information visit www.rockinghamccd.org