Thanks to the Learys, Rod Thompson and Virginia Long for photos of the Leary Field and Forest land.

In early Spring 2017, MMRG began a new land conservation project, working with Bob and Debbie Leary who own a farm along Hornetown Road, a rural section of Farmington. The Learys look forward to conserving 60+ acres of field and forest, forever, to honor the three generations of family who have farmed, sugared and forested this land on the Farmington Ridge. Bob Leary’s passion for this land was passed down from his father who had once said that he hoped that the farm would continue to grow crops forever. Bob and Debbie Leary are not strangers to land conservation as they worked previously with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to put the adjoining 73 acres into the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement in 2010.

MMRG’s new Conservation Plan and resources maps show multiple high conservation values along the Farmington Ridge. Much of the land, including the Leary parcel, boasts the highest quality agricultural soils in New Hampshire and even nation-wide, which is especially important since farmland to the south continues to be developed. This land also supports a valuable oak-pine forest that, when left undeveloped, protects local drinking water resources, the Cocheco River watershed and wildlife habitat. The Nature Conservancy’s 2016 Climate Change Resiliency studies rate the Farmington Ridge as above average for protection against storm-caused flooding and preservation of wildlife corridors that provide safe passage for native animals to migrate from threats like disease and habitat alterations. These documented wildlife conservation values do not surprise the Learys, but simply confirm decades of their sightings of unique species like the bobolink and native brook trout.

The Leary property contributes to an evolving greenway of nearly 1,000 acres extending from the Farmington and New Durham ridges, and south to Strafford and Barnstead. Neighbor Rod Thompson, who has conserved his 190 acres and his neighbor Victor Piekarski, of WidowMaker Farm applaud the Leary’s decision to conserve their land and extend the greenway. Conservationists value greenways that provide corridors for wildlife to migrate from threats and disperse genetic code, which increases the species’ resiliency. Greenways can also provide trails for recreation. On the Leary parcel, over two miles of trails wrap around the hay fields to hilltops with stupendous views of 7 peaks and as far as the seacoast. The trails also extend into the shaded forest area of the existing WRP easement that is etched with tributaries and quaint bridges crossing sections of the Clay Pit Brook. While the primary purpose of the trails is for farm and forest management, they also provide for delightful hikes. The Learys encourage trail use for those who are respectful of the land and will use it lightly for hiking, snowshoeing, birding or photography.

MMRG has submitted several grant applications for partial funding of the Leary Field & Forest easement and recently received approval for a NRCS grant. The Farmington Conservation Commission has pledged a generous donation towards completing the project and will hold an executory Leary Field & Forest up) interest in the easement. Please consider a donation to help match the grants to conserve Leary Field & Forest in Farmington. For more information, contact Patti at (603) 473-2020.