Five Rivers Conservation Trust and the Hopkinton Conservation Commission have collaborated to permanently protect a 55-acre farm field in the center of Contoocook Village from future development. The Houston family owns the field, located behind Dimitri’s restaurant and Colonial Plaza, as part of its Pine Lane Farm. The family has a long history of farming in Contoocook. Rich Houston, the third-generation of the family to manage Pine Lane Farm, has seen many acres of farmland lost to non-farm uses, so he wanted to permanently protect this prime agricultural land along the Contoocook and Warner Rivers. Houston says, “The viability of the farm depends on having enough good farmland to grow the corn silage and hay needed to feed our 450 milking cows."
The Houstons’ goal of protecting their farmland meshed perfectly with the goals of Five Rivers and the Hopkinton Conservation Commission. Both organizations prioritize protecting working farmland and river frontage. This 55-field has the added benefit of being in the center of Contoocook village, across from the town’s Riverway Park and next to Contoocook’s iconic covered bridge. Keeping this agricultural land open is important to maintaining Contoocook’s rural character.
Five Rivers’ Executive Director, Beth McGuinn, said, “Conservation of this property means that this highest quality farmland will remain available for farming. Nearly a mile of undeveloped frontage along the Contoocook and Warner Rivers will continue to be a feature of Contoocook Village for those who live nearby, paddle the rivers, shop at the farmer’s market or visit the covered bridge.”
Rich Houston, co-owner of Pine Lane Farm, is committed to the continuing viability of his family farm - his children are already working on the farm. Rich would like to permanently protect all of the farm’s 180 acres of prime riverfront land.
Rob Knight, Five Rivers’ project manager, said, “It was great working with Rich Houston. He is so clearly committed to protecting his farmland for the future.”
Rich and his mother Edith will continue to own the farm field under conservation restrictions that prevent future development and require best management practices for agriculture. Five Rivers role continues into the future, monitoring the property each year, and working with Rich and future owners of the land to ensure that the conservation restrictions are honored.
Funding for the conservation project came from the Hopkinton Conservation Commission, the Thomas W Haas Fund, the NH State Conservation Committee’s Conservation License Plate Program and private local donations. Five Rivers is still accepting donations to cover the final costs of the project, with a goal of an additional $3500.
Five Rivers Conservation Trust is a nonprofit membership supported organization, working with communities and landowners to protect important local land. Five Rivers’ goal of is to ensure that future generationscan experience, utilize, and benefit from the farms, forests, wetlands, and habitat that characterize much of the landscape today. The organization works in seventeen communities across central New Hampshire and has conserved 78 properties, totaling over 4800 acres