Join us throughout 2021 as NH Conservation Districts celebrate their 75th Anniversary!
Take a look at when each district was founded...
Cheshire – 10/10/1945
Sullivan – 1/24/1946
Merrimack – 1/24/1946
Belknap – 2/14/1946
Hillsborough – 3/8/1946
Grafton – 4/24/1946
Coos – 4/24/1946
Carroll – 4/25/1946
Strafford – 4/25/1946
Rockingham – 4/26/1946
We're excited to invite you to join us in partnership with all 10 of NH's County Conservation Districts to celebrate 75 years of conservation in 2021!!
We'll be celebrating in a number of ways:
FLASHBACK FRIDAYS - Every Friday in 2021, Conservation Districts across the state will participate in a coordinated sharing of old conservation photos, stories, and lessons from Conservation Districts across the state of NH. Follow us on Facebook or sign-up for our enewsletter on our website so you don’t miss any of them.
LEGACY AWARDS - Every Conservation District in NH will present an organization, farm, family, individual, family forest, business, etc. with our 75th Anniversary Legacy Awards. That's 10 awards across the state to honor those who have had a sustained commitment to and practice of conservation over time! Sullivan County Nominees and Winners
10 NH Legacy Award Winners Video
PODCASTS - We'll also be producing and sharing podcasts recorded with conservation leaders across the state! These should start this spring.
You can access all of these through our Conservation in the Granite State website.
1988 Soils Field Day at Bob Frizzell's Farm (Peachblow) in Charlestown. Gerry Rosenburg from Soil Conservation Service (NRCS now) teaching about soil horizons.
While we were preparing for Flashback Fridays, we found many photos from years past, including our first logo from 1956 (pictured left). You can view some of them on our PHOTO ALBUMS page.
Most of the photos were taken by the USDA - Soil Conservation Service. The rest were found in SCCD Annual Reports or digitized from slides found in our office.
For 75 years the County Conservation Districts have worked tirelessly with landowners and communities to promote the conservation and responsible use of natural and agricultural resources. The Legacy Award endeavors to shine a spotlight on those who embody this mission with a sustained commitment to the stewardship of natural resources in Sullivan County. Businesses, organizations, individuals, and families are eligible for the award if they live in or are based in the County, have a minimum of 5 years experience of sustained commitment to conservation and stewardship.
The Conservation District Board of Supervisors in each County will be responsible for the review and the selection of one Conservation Legacy Award for each County. Statewide there will be ten awardees honored. These awardees will be announced in June 2021 and honored at individual events.
Wendell Berry attends a session on using draft horses at the 1978 Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) conference that was taught by Cornish resident, Bill Gallagher.
Love your cows, love the land, love the water. It sustains us.
Sullivan County Legacy Award Winners
John & Robin Luther, Parnassus Farm
John & Robin implement best practices for conservation on their dairy farm, through their partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and John’s role as a supervisor for SCCD for the past 24 years. John's love of farming started when he was a small boy on the family farm. John's father, Earl Luther, Jr was one of the first cooperators to sign with SCCD. "Over the years, Mr. Luther has made consistent effort to apply as many conservation practices as possible on his 192 acre farm & continues these efforts in partnership with his son, John" (from 1984 SCCD Annual Report). Earl was named the 1984 Cooperator of the Year. John's partnership with NRCS is still strong, valued, and ongoing. The Luther’s were there for the slow pivot from old-school “conservation” to the contemporary vision advocated for today.
Why does John think conservation is important? He does it for the well being of his cows and his family, including his daughter, Karen, who works part-time at the farm. He believes that, "Caring for the animals and caring for the land go hand in hand." Conservation practices are better for the cows. Cows benefit from clean water too. John was encouraged to switch to pasturing his cows by Heidi Konesko of NRCS. He has found that people like to see the cows grazing by the road. John enjoys seeing his cows out on pasture, knowing they are comfortable and doing what they should be doing - grazing. To John, "a farm is a place you can [proudly] say, 'This is where my food comes from."
The Luthers have a milk house waste system that was the first of its kind in New England. The one they had previously wasn't as efficient as John would like and he knew there must be something better. He wanted to make sure that "the milk waste from our barns (the proverbial “spilled milk”) was not seeping into the local watershed." John worked with NRCS staff to find a better system and they found one that was being used in Pennsylvania that seemed promising. They constructed a grass filter strip designed by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service with two settling tanks and a pump that evenly discharges the liquid into a manifold (which is painted green and blends into the shrubbery). The waste now seeps inconspicuously into the sod along the edge of the farmstead. John initiated the search for something better and implemented it. This milk house waste system is still working after 20 years.
Educating others is important to the Luthers. Robin was a youth and family 4-H field specialist in the UNH Coop. Ext. Sullivan County office, teaching the next generation about caring for plants, animals and the natural resources that sustain us all. She retired this June after 36 years! The Luthers have frequent visitors to the farm whether it’s friends, neighbors or school groups. They are always willing to stop what they’re doing and show folks where their food comes from and how it gets from the farm to their table. The way they manage the farm sets a great example for conservation, and that’s visible to people in other walks of life. John and Robin want people, especially young people to know that they "aren't the last generation, someone is coming after [them]. The natural world needs care. Love your cows, love the land, love the water. It sustains us."
EVENTS TO HONOR AWARDEES
Join us in congratulating our first ever Conservation Legacy Award winners at the upcoming virtual Farm & Forest Expo session on July 20th at 10-11:30am. To register for this event visit: https://tinyurl.com/4w9jxt3u
Awardees will also be honored later this year at the NH Association of Conservation Districts Annual Meeting in November. For further information on 75th anniversary activities such as the Legacy Awards visit: https://nhconservationhistory.com/
All Sullivan County Nominees will be honored at the SCCD Annual Awards Social on Sunday, August 29, 2021. We will be hosting an ice cream social at Sanctuary Dairy Farm in Sunapee. The social starts at 4pm and program starts at 5pm. Cost is $15 and includes 2 scoops of ice cream (over 40 flavors to choose from) on your choice of cone or in a cup. Nominees will share why conservation is important to them and what they are doing to conserve natural resources in Sullivan County. Our Volunteer(s) of the year will also be recognized. This is a casual event. There is limited seating (picnic tables), so bring your own lawn chair.
Legacy Award Nominees
Van Webb and Family: Protecting Land for Future Generations
Conserved places will be jewels 100 years from now.
Van Webb and his family conserves land for future generations through conservation easements on their own land and Van works to conserve town lands through his work on the Sunapee Conservation Commission. Van became interested in conservation when his dad put a conservation easement in place on their property in the 1970s. His father, Dick, turned the property over to Van while he was still in high school and they worked together to create a formal conservation easement. In 1967 their commitment to long-term management resulted in the first conservation easement in NH. An initial gift of 703 acres to the New London Conservation Commission (called a deed of dedication back then) and was added to in 1970 and 1981 to a total of just over 1000 acres. Presently, all forest land is incorporated into the RH Webb Forest Preserve, LLC; a 2,785 acre certified Tree Farm located in Sullivan and Merrimack Counties. The Webb families thoughtful plan for future ownership and management of this land ensures it will always be high quality forest land; beneficial for animal habitat and public enjoyment.
Van personally believes in open space, unfragmented forests, wildlife corridors and the ability for owners to grow tree crops on a long-term basis. Land needs a level of protection, so it doesn’t get developed and fragmented. Communities need to recognize the benefits of good soils and healthy water resources. These conserved places will be “jewels 100 years from now.” We need people with the foresight to do that. Van has this advice for the next generation, "Think about how you want your communities to look and what you want to see along the roads that bisect your communities. Look to the future by protecting some of the resources that may be important in the next 100 years.”
Fred & Shirley Sullivan: Conservation District Foundations
Fred & Shirley Sullivan have a long history with SCCD, implementing best practices on their farmland. The Sullivans ran the 150 acre Brokenridge Farm, a dairy farm and sugar house in Cornish, NH. Fred's father, Charles, was a founding member of SCCD in 1946 and served on the board for at least 21 years. He not only promoted best conservation practices throughout the years, but practiced them on his farm. In 1964, Charles was named along with his son, Fred, as the Outstanding District Cooperator for their "dedication and belief of sound conservation practices at home and 'a giving of himself generously without reimbursement of any sort' to the County, State, and National District effort" (from SCCD annual report - see picture). Both Fred and Shirley participated in 4-H when they were younger. The Sullivans helped to build the first dairy barn at the Cornish Fair and Fred brought the first animal to the fair. His calf got a blue ribbon as it was the only one! Like his father before him, Fred served on the board of SCCD from 1973 - 75 and in 1978 became the vice-chairman.
The Sullivans are proud of preserving the land in Cornish as agricultural land. Much of the land has been sold, but is still in use as corn and hay fields and as a horse farm. Fred and Shirley's great grandchildren, Jase & Mattie Steel, continue their tradition of stewardship by planting fir trees on their mother's land every year. Fred & Shirley take the opportunities given to them to teach their 6 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren where their food comes from. The Sullivan motto is, "If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.”
If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.
Steve Taylor: Advocating for Agriculture
Perry Smith/UNH Photographic Services
Steve Taylor is best know as an advocate for conservation in his role for 25 years as NH Commissioner of Agriculture. "Politically skilled without being political, Taylor weathered six changes of administration—from Hugh Gallen to Jeanne Shaheen—by first earning the steadfast respect of farmers, then gradually winning over the rest of the state. Taylor earned a lasting reputation as the rarest of leaders, a canny Yankee farmer able to move effortlessly between barn and boardroom, sometimes without even changing out of his work boots. His affable personality, common-sense approach and folksy style elevated him to the level of a treasured New Hampshire institution" (excerpt from UNH Magazine, 2011 article). Steve always had an open door for conservation issues.
Steve's father, Lawrence Taylor, was a school teacher and ran a small farm in Meriden. He worked with the SCCD technicians to implement best practices on his land at the time. Steve and his wife, Gretchen, continued in the dairy business and continued partnering with SCCD. His wife jokingly referred to their farm as a 4-H project that went haywire. Steve is now supporting his sons in their farming operations and he is still active in the Cornish Fair – Sullivan County’s agricultural fair and is an advisor for the Big E – Eastern States Exposition held in Springfield, MA. Steve still does a lot of public speaking educating people about agriculture in NH and the history of agriculture in NH and advocates for agriculture in general.
The McNamara Family: Next Generation Farmers
The McNamaras have diversified the family farm, using best practices in many areas, instilling a sense of stewardship into the next generation who are continuing to work the family farm. Bill & Hazel McNamara started the family farm on the banks of the CT River in 1950. Afterwards their sons, Tom and Pat, became co-owners of the dairy. They set themselves apart by bottling milk in glass bottles, which are reusable. Their children's farming interests have diversified the family farm. They have a small chicken operation, their own beef herd, and a maple business. They are good neighbors and work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to implement best practices on their land. According to Heide Konesko, NRCS staff, "the McNamaras are a hard working farm family. They keep an eye on technology and science, adopting the things that help their business. They view soil health and sustainability as things that help their business for the long term."
Today there are three generations of McNamara’s that live and work on the farm together. They are committed to providing excellent care for their animals, quality products and being stewards of the land. “It’s really neat to see the history of the farm change and the way we’ve adapted to fit in the current environment; what we need to survive in order to make sure that all five of us in the next generation could come back and then hopefully leave it in a good spot for our next generation to take over,” concludes Liz McNamara.